Let's give a big hand for effective CPR

  • Compression-only CPR -- or hands-only CPR -- is now the preferred form of cardiopulmonary resuscitation, eliminating mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

    Compression-only CPR -- or hands-only CPR -- is now the preferred form of cardiopulmonary resuscitation, eliminating mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Stock Photo

By Teri Dreher
Posted1/28/2023 7:00 AM

When Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin, just 24 years of age, collapsed after receiving a hit to the chest during a football game Jan. 2 against the Cincinnati Bengals, on-field CPR provided by the team's trainer likely saved his life.

Hamlin's heart had stopped beating, and team trainer Denny Kellington went into action, immediately performing chest compressions to keep Hamlin's blood circulating. As more aid arrived on the field, a defibrillator was used to jump-start Hamlin's heart.


A very lucky young man.

Would you know what to do if someone -- a loved one or even a stranger on the street -- suddenly collapsed? If you had first aid in high school, you likely learned CPR as a combination of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and chest compressions.

These days, people are hesitant to share germs with a stranger, and I can't blame them. The good news is that compression-only CPR -- or hands-only CPR -- is now the preferred form of cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

As February is Heart Month, it's an appropriate time to acquaint yourself with this technique.

In 2008, the American Heart Association released new recommendations that bystanders can skip mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and use hands-only CPR to help an adult who suddenly collapses. The AHA emphasizes this care is appropriate only outside a hospital setting.

With CPR, bystanders dial 911 and then provide high-quality chest compressions by pushing hard and fast in the center of the victim's chest. Hands-only CPR may reduce the time it takes to start CPR and deliver a greater number of chest compressions with fewer interruptions for the first several minutes after an adult or teen suffers out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.

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The AHA has a short video on YouTube (youtu.be/M4ACYp75mjU) demonstrating this CPR technique. In a nutshell:

• Rush to the victim and see if they're unconscious. Give them a vigorous shake and shout "Are you OK?" If they don't respond …

• Have somebody call 911, or quickly do it yourself. If you tell another bystander to call 911, ask them to stay on the scene and to tell you what the 911 dispatcher said.

• Position yourself next to the victim and lean over their chest. Find the center of the patient's chest (between the nipples -- there's no time for modesty), place the heel of your strongest hand over the back of the other hand, and push hard to the rhythm of "Stayin' Alive," or about 100 to 120 beats per minute.


• Keep your arms straight and use your whole torso, not just your arms. Ask for help if you can't keep it up long enough -- it's hard work.

• Maintain compressions until first responders arrive. Cardiac arrest can be fatal if it lasts longer than eight minutes without CPR. Brain damage can happen after just five minutes.

Studies have shown most civilians performing CPR do not push hard enough or fast enough, especially when it comes to loved ones because they're afraid of hurting them. Don't be. Remember you're keeping circulation going, which leads to increased chance of survival.

But even bad CPR is better no CPR at all. The average response time for EMTs is eight to 12 minutes, and the chances of survival go down about 10% for each minute without blood circulating, according to the Red Cross.

With no blood pumping, carrying oxygen to the brain, serious brain damage is very likely. In addition, blood is not flowing to any of the other organs carrying valuable oxygen and sugars to the cells. Organ failure sets in quickly.

Note that this technique is appropriate for adults and teenagers. In babies, rescue breathing and compression on the center of the chest (usually with two fingers) are recommended. In children, compressions should still be 100-120 beats per minute, pushing down about 2 inches. Don't push on the ribs, which are fragile in children. If your child or grandchild babysits, they should be certified in these techniques.

In a lot of public places, you can find AEDs or automated external defibrillators. It's a sophisticated, yet easy-to-use, medical device that can analyze the heart's rhythm and, if necessary, deliver an electrical shock, or defibrillation, to help the heart re-establish an effective rhythm.

If an AED is immediately accessible, get it and use it right away. If not, CPR should be started first.

AEDs are designed to be used by laypeople, but there are several important steps to using them correctly. I recommend taking CPR and AED training with the Red Cross, which is available in person, online or hybrid. Check the offerings at redcross.org/take-a-class.

What better way to celebrate Heart Month?

• Teri Dreher is a board-certified patient advocate. A critical care nurse for 30+ years, she is founder of NShore Patient Advocates (www.NorthShoreRN.com). She is offering a free phone consultation to Daily Herald readers; call her at (847) 612-6684.

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