This weekend was my annual CPR recertification. Some approximate counting on my fingers suggest that since I was first trained in 1994, this make 20 year of being CPR certified.
I have had to use it a couple of times. Once in a bar in the late 90’s when someone went down on the dance floor and everyone thought he was just drunk, but a quick once over as every one rolled their eyes at me revealed no pulse and no breathing. I performed single person CPR until the ambulance arrived and took him away. I never heard what happened after that.
The other time was a few years later in a health centre when a guy pushed past me as I was leaving. We were closed for the night so I turned around to chase him out of the building and he coded half way to the emergency room. The nurse was still in the building and she did chest compressions while I ran the bag mask and the janitor called an ambulance. It was a small town, so that one I learned didn’t make it.
CPR alone is only successful 5% of the time. Early defibrillation helps.
For people who are choking… well, I have a pretty good success rate for helping with that. I here the term “Heimlich manoeuvre” is now copyrighted, but I can’t get used to calling it the “abdominal thrust manoeuvre.” What ever you call it, I have used it to successfully help a few people. The first was a guy who looked like a line backer in a restaurant. He blew past me on his was to the bathroom making a weird choking whistling noise. I followed him right into the men’s room and asked if he was choking. The other guys in there looked shocked and I need him to kneel because he was too tall for me, but it worked the second time and he was immediately better.
The second time was a pre-teen eating a hotdog at a ball game. His mom tried slapping him on the back. Don’t do that. It doesn’t help. Even if you dislodge it, gravity works and it is only going to go deeper. He went from choking but able to talk to choking and not being able to talk. It took me a minute to talk his mom into letting me help. Pointing out that his lips were turning blue was what finally convinced her. Some one called an ambulance but he was fine by the time they got there. They got to tell the crowd not to slap a choking victim. I wasn’t going to tell her she made it worse. No mom needs to hear that from a random stranger. It’s only slightly better hearing it from a stranger in a EMS uniform.
The third one was Little Girl. She was under a year. I was the least calm at that one. I panicked and flipped her into the newborn choking position and the piece of uncooked pasta she had found fell out before I even got to the back blows. That’s where people get confused. In infants under a year, you can dangle them upside down so that gravity helps and give them a back blow. But it only works if you have the patient with there airway pointing down.
If you aren’t certified in first aid and CRP, I always encourage people to get certified. If you notice, only one of those stories was in a health care setting, and even then, only barely. If he had been a minute earlier or later, it would have been someone finding him in the parking lot. Have a look at your family, they are the people it is mostly likely you will use your skills on. Everyone has heart disease in the family. Choking can happen to anyone.