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What to do in a medical emergency
Nov 22nd, 2013 Headlines

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, this site without fancy drugs and a stethoscope on me, advice 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, page “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

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