CPR – or cardiopulmonary resuscitation – is a series of fast, vigorous chest compressions that are designed to pump the heart to circulate blood and deliver oxygen to the brain until additional treatment, such as defibrillation, can stimulate the heart to start working again.
“Cardiac arrest can happen to anyone, not just the middle-aged bloke who smokes 50 cigarettes a day,” Middleton says. “Among those who’ve had a cardiac arrest and been saved by CPR are a 30-something woman who was swimming at Coogee and a 17-year-old girl who was arguing with her twin in the kitchen – home being where the majority of cardiac arrests happen.”
Middleton runs the Take Heart CPR education program in his limited free time with the help of volunteers. He’s currently looking for funding so he can do more but it’s already saved many lives.
In addition to increased CPR training, Middleton is also calling for more automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) in public spaces. “Tokyo has 40,000 and O’Hare airport in Chicago has one every 100 metres. Wherever bystanders know CPR and there are defibrillators, people survive.”
Middleton says the best part of his job is going home knowing he’s saved lives. But it’s not only doctors and nurses who can do that. You can, too. To find out more, visit takeheartaustralia.com.au
Since its launch in 2014, Take Heart has helped get several CPR-based initiatives up and running.
Free training: The first Take Heart Australia event trained 4500 people at Allianz Stadium in Sydney in November 2014. This year’s event is scheduled for October 31. Take Heart visits workplaces to train staff in CPR for free. Donations welcome.
Education for kids: The Young Hearts learning program for schools includes animated videos and a special teaching puppet for the kids, plus a training module for teachers. Pilot trials are currently underway.
St John advises doing a course every three years and a CPR refresher each year. Visit stjohn.org.au
A heart attack is caused by a blockage in an artery delivering blood to the heart. This can damage the heart muscle, and lifestyle or genetic factors are often to blame. There are warning signs – such as pain, shortness of breath and nausea – which can build over time.
A cardiac arrest is sudden and more fatal. The electrical signals that control the heart go awry and the heart stops beating, causing the patient to drop. Causes include:
Remember doing something is better than doing nothing when it comes to CPR, and following these steps may help save a life.
#1 Before you begin:
#2 Kneel by the patient’s side and begin chest compressions. Place the heel of the palm of your hand on the patient’s lower breastbone and place your other hand on top, with fingers interlocking.
#3 Lock your elbows out and use your body weight to compress by one third of the chest height.
#4 Lift your hands slightly after each compression to allow the chest to expand. Compress the chest 100-120 times per minute (2 per second). Think of the beat to the song “Stayin’ Alive” for the correct rhythm.
#5 Continue compressions without pausing until help arrives. (If trained in CPR, coordinate 30 chest compressions with 2 breaths; pinch the nose and breathe into their mouth for up to 1 second, watching for the chest to rise.)
#6 Use an automated external defibrillator (AED), if and when available, as soon as possible but don’t stop chest compressions until prompted by the AED.
#7 After the defibrillator delivers a shock, follow the prompts of the AED and recommence chest compressions. If the heart resumes beating, the AED will not deliver another shock.
#8 Continue CPR until an ambulance arrives or the patient responds. Only stop chest compressions when prompted by the AED or when giving 2 breaths.
Keep the infant’s head in a neutral position (don’t tilt it back). For babies, use two fingers to press on the chest, and in children under eight, the heel of one hand only. Compress one third of the chest height and do 100-120 compressions per minute (2 per second). After 30 compressions, place your mouth over the child’s mouth and nose and breathe, watching for the chest to rise. Do 2 breaths.