What would you do if you were faced with a medical emergency? What if a perfect stranger fell down unconscious at your feet? It happened to me just this past weekend and even as a trained professional, without fancy drugs and a stethoscope on me, I had to return to basics.
What’s the first thing you should do if someone is in medical danger? You got it. Call 9-1-1. Or appoint someone around you to do it for you. And don’t just shout, “Call 911!” Often, people will assume someone else has taken care of it and won’t make a move. So don’t hesitate to point to someone specifically and say, “You, call 9-1-1 now!” You should also check to see if anyone around you is a medical professional. They will likely have identified themselves, but it is always important to check.
Next, think of your A-B-C’s. That stands for Airway, Breathing, and Circulation. Does the person have an open airway or windpipe? Is she breathing? Does she have a pulse? These are all things you want to establish in the first crucial seconds. This is when being familiar with CPR can come in very handy and the reason I urge everyone out there to take a basic CPR course.
CPR guidelines have changed in recent years. There’s a greater emphasis on starting strong, fast chest compressions right away in someone who doesn’t have a pulse instead of beginning mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. The new mantra is “push hard and push fast in the center of the chest.” And a good estimate of how fast you should push is to follow the beat of the Bee Gees’ song “Stayin’ Alive.” It’s true. That equals about 120 beats/minute.
You should also call out for an AED or automated external defibrillator if you’re in a public place. Many malls, restaurants, movie theaters and sports arenas now have them at the ready. They’re easy to use and can shock a person out of a fatal arrhythmia.
You never know when you might be faced with a medical emergency and you may be the only one around to help. It’s happened to me on an airplane, at an awards ceremony, twice in a mall, and most recently at a dinner party. So if you’ve never taken a CPR class or it’s been a long time, please sign up now. For your fellow citizen out there, it could be the difference between life and death.
To find a class in your area, go to http://www.redcross.org/take-a-class
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