Catawba County News
Bystander CPR & AED Use
Published: June 15, 2021
According to the American Heart Association (AHA),” Cardiac arrest is the abrupt loss of heart function in a person who may or may not have been diagnosed with heart disease." What that says to me is that a cardiac arrest can happen to anyone at any time. The average age of cardiac arrest in Catawba County is 65. It is not uncommon for cardiac arrests to occur in younger people as well. That's why it's so important that all of us know how to act when necessary. Do you know what to do if you find someone in cardiac arrest? Does your family?
Let's start with a little background information. Your heart is a muscle and its job is to pump blood to all of your body. The most important place for it to get blood to is the brain. Your brain controls everything so it's super important to keep it happy! When the heart stops, brain cell death will begin to occur in 4 to 7 minutes. What that means is that we have to act fast!
If you see someone who looks asleep where they shouldn't be or when they shouldn't be, go check on them. Shake them and shout at them. If they do not respond to you, this is an emergency! CALL 911!! If you forget what to do or you are scared, they will help you!
Check for breathing. If their chest is not moving or they are only gasping a couple of times per minute, they are not breathing and you need to do CPR. Move the person to the floor. It needs to be quick, but it doesn't need to be pretty. You aren't going to hurt them. Roll them onto the floor or drag them by the feet. If you can't move them (and you did try) do the best you can right where they are. If someone shows up to help, try again to move them to the floor.
Get on your knees beside the person. (You can do this! It is not going to hurt them. You are helping!) Draw an imaginary line between their armpits. Where that line meets the bone in the center of the chest is where you put the heel of your hand. Place one hand on top of the other and lock your elbows. Push hard and fast to the beat of the song “Stayin' Alive” by the BeeGees, “Baby Shark,” or “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.” It's totally ok to sing out loud. This is a stressful thing and singing will help you. Keep compressing until the person moves or talks or someone gets there to help you. Click this link for a demo from the AHA.
If you are at a location with an AED (automated external defibrillator), send someone to get it as soon as cardiac arrest is recognized. Place the AED on the person while continuing CPR and follow the machine’s directions. An AED is smarter than your smart phone so you never have to be afraid to use it. It will only shock the person if they need it, so go ahead and put it on. The AED delivers a shock using stickers that you put on the chest. (Much safer than the shocking paddles you see on TV.) Don’t worry! The stickers have pictures on them that show you where to put them. (Click the link below to see these in action.) You do have to bare the person's chest so do that as quickly as possible. If their chest is wet, quickly dry it and place the pads. If the chest is super hairy, you might have to give it a quick, dry shave. If there is a medication patch on the chest, take it off and wipe the medication off. This may seem overwhelming but you can do it!!
Click this link to learn about AED use and Catawba County's AED registry.
Look around the places you spend your time (work, church, gym, etc.) to see if they have an AED. To register an AED, go to this link and complete the easy form.
When Catawba County EMS arrives to the scene of a cardiac arrest, we are going to work very fast, and we will probably have a lot of help. If you are a bystander, we are going to ask you questions about the patient and what happened. When possible, we will stay on the scene, maybe for quite some time and perform patient care. You may see some things you didn't know we could do. We will put a tube in the patient's throat to breathe for them. We will start IVs and give medications. If we aren't able to get an IV line, we may administer medications through a bone. It's kind of strange for you to see but not for us to do. We may even use a newer piece of equipment that does CPR for us. The Lucas chest compression device provides consistent chest compressions, freeing up medical personnel to perform other skills. If the patient gets a pulse back and maintains that, then we will transport to a local hospital for further care. During that transport time, we will continuously monitor the patient, do 12-lead EKGs and possibly administer more medications. Through all of these things, we try our best to maintain communication with family on scene to ensure they know what is going on. CPR does not work all the time, but what we do know is that if we don't try, it certainly won't work. When we do CPR, we give the person the best chance to survive this event.
Catawba County EMS offers non-certification CPR classes to any group in Catawba County at no charge. For more information, call 828-464-1575.
For more information on cardiac arrest: