Yes, even I can use one!
That zappy thing, you know what I mean, they call it a defibrillator or AED.
Let us get one thing cleared up first. What AED means? It's not Accident and Emergency Department in this case nor is it Anti Epileptic Drugs. It merely stands for Automated (not automatic) External (not electronic) Defibrillator.
Over the years so much has been written and taught about saving a life. Much of it has led to developing fear across the community. How sad is it, that CPR can be classified as R18. People have become scared to step in and help someone because they are afraid of the damage they believe they can cause.
There is a real belief that not performing CPR "properly" can lead to a person killing someone in a life-threatening emergency.
Sudden Cardiac Arrest or SCA is a bit of a bummer especially if you are the person having the event. When a cardiac arrest occurs a person collapses on the floor, they stop breathing, and their heart stops beating. A lot is going on at this time, and many factors will influence your possible survival outcomes.
The first is identifying that it is actually a medical emergency and not someone just taking a kip.
BIG TIP #1, it's a great idea to check before you start giving that big slobbery kiss of life. You are likely to upset people no matter how well-meaning you might be. I hear you though; it always works on TV. A couple of pushes and a few puffs, there they are sitting up shaking the rescuer's hand announcing "thanks very much I'm back".
In real life back here on planet earth, the chances of you getting a person back to life by pushing and puffing are highly unlikely. What CPR does is buy time. Time for medical professionals or that all-important magic box, the defibrillator to arrive. I think of all those poor people who have lived with regret believing that they didn't do things correctly. Assuming it was their fault the person passed away. That sure is a heavy weight to bear.
The reality is they tried; the person was already dead, they could do no further harm to them. Put bluntly; the person stayed dead. If they had done nothing, walked around them or gone for a beer, the deceased person, yep you got it, would still have stayed dead. The rescuer gave the person the only chance they had of survival and is the ultimate first aid hero.
I sure hope with this insight that some weights have been lifted from shoulders.
Saving lives is possible, learning the skills is easy (and free if you check out First Aid for All). Almost anybody can have a go and make a massive contribution towards improving a person's survival chances.
Heres a thing, we all die, it's the surest outcome in life. Learning and applying the skills can make a massive difference. You tried, whatever the result, it's all anyone can ask of you. So right here, right now I want to say thank you to all those who have tried you are all real heroes.
So the checking is over, the person is confirmed unresponsive. The next step is to shout out for someone to go and call for an ambulance. At the same time ask for someone to get the nearest defibrillator.
A fantastic app free to download is (from where ever you get your apps from) called AED Locations. It will provide details of the locations of the nearest defibrillator.
BIG TIP #2 check out the site and the location of your nearest defibrillator both at home and work.
Most people have heard the saying swallow your tongue; it's fake news. Unless it's cut off this concept is a physical impossibility. The tongue is attached to the bottom of the mouth. It's controlled by muscles which keep the tongue forward and the airway open.
When a person becomes unconscious, the muscles relax, and the tongue falls back obstructing the airway resulting in no oxygen reaching the lungs.
Now, this is not a great position to be in. It can certainly ruin your day.
If however, some awesome first aid hero comes along, first aid certificate tucked in their back pocket recently revalidated (of course) and does the decent thing, well who knows.
Tilting the person's head backwards may be enough right there and then to save their life.
Why? How? I can the hear the gasps of amazement. This simple act will bring that ill-disciplined tongue back into line, returning it to the position, it should be in.
Once in place that life fuel known as oxygen gets free access back into lungs.
So Big Tip #3 open that airway.
That done its time to check and see if they are drawing that air in and pushing it out it with vigour. If so fantastic, superb, halleluja they're breathing, in other words, they are alive, just not kicking yet.
Hate to be the bearer of bad news though, but on this occasion, sorry it's not happening.
It's push and puff time. 30 of those pushes, middle of the chest. After that get puffing only twice though and just enough to fill those balloons and make their chest rise.
Balloons? Well, that's what the lungs are like. So when you are giving the two puffs, imagine you are blowing one up, the balloon that is. You can't blow the lungs up or make them pop.
Big Tip #4 start the pushy, puffy thing.
Now, remember that person who was sent away to get help. Well, they're back.
Bad news again though, the white vehicle with the flashy lights is twenty minutes away. Yes, they do all have defibrillators on board and come with people who know how to use them. This is so cool but it doesn't help me now does it?
Twenty minutes I cry. Don't you know that for each minute that the defibrillator is delayed the chances of this sick person's survival is reduced by about 10%? It doesn't matter how much pushing n puffing and puffing and pushing I do, it won't make this situation any better.
The reply is a bit more positive, however. "I used that app thing, found the nearest AED location, my mate will be here in just a second with the zappy machine".
Remembering it's idiot proof, the on button pushed, it lights up, it speaks what strange phenomena is this? It's a bit bossy mind you and tells me what to do. It will only work if it finds specific
shockable rhythms. In other words, I can't shock someone that doesn't need shocking As long as I follow the simple instructions, nothing can go wrong.
Did I say idiot proof? Enter the idiot. When it says, do not touch the sick person. Yes, that's right the one with the pads stuck on their chest. It means it. Holding their hand to comfort them (remember they are actually dead at this time) is not a great idea, especially when pressing the shock button at the same time.
Big Tip #5 now we are talking, if the bossy machine lets me, I zap em.
Wow, it works, it really worked. Released from the hospital yesterday and now back home with their whanau.
This is rather cool. A person lived because of a group of people who worked together. Someone called for help. Someone else went and collected a nearby defibrillator. This was possible because a kindly soul had had the foresight and cared enough to buy a defibrillator in the first place. Incredibly they then made it available in the event of an emergency. The app (created by Gareth Jenkins, another hero) AED Locations directed the first aiders to the defibrillator, and it arrived in time to make a difference.
The ambulance crew arrived and got to meet a living person. They were just amazing and told us that we had done a great job. And guess what? I knew what to do. We all have one thing in common; we are first aid heroes.
If you would like to learn what to do in a medical emergency, you can now do it free of charge. Just sign up too First Aid for All. The more people trained, the more defibrillators that are available and accessible 24/7, the more success stories of lives saved will be told. It really is a no-brainer. Far too many people are denied a second chance. Why? Bystanders, family members or friends not knowing what to do, a lack of confidence, fear, medical help not arriving quickly enough, unavailability of an accessible defibrillator. At the end of the day, it is a list of excuses. We can do so much better.
Big, Big, Big Tip #6 considerations before you have a cardiac arrest:
If you have to do it, have your sudden cardiac arrest that is, do it in a public place.
Ensure there is good cell phone coverage.
There is an available AED nearby (tip check AED Locations before you arrest).
You are in a cardiac rhythm that the machine will shock.
That at least one bystander is trained in basic first aid skills.
Your survival is subject to a great plan. Unfortunately, that plan currently has lots of holes in it.
Let's work together to improve what we already have.