You can save a life!

You are getting ready for work in the morning and go into the kitchen to have breakfast with your spouse, only to find them on the floor unresponsive. What do you do? You would most likely, and understandably, panic. Once you call 911, what is the next step? For most of us, that is the extent to which we are able to provide assistance. What if you could do more? By providing CPR until emergency personnel arrive, the chances of someone surviving cardiac arrest increases double, or even triple, than those who no intervention is delivered.


All of the cells in our body need to have oxygenated blood and the heart’s normal function is to provide this by operating as a giant pump. The pump is triggered to move by an electrical current that originates in very specific places within the heart. When something interrupts this electrical conduction, it causes the heart to stop beating and the blood flow to stop. This decreases the oxygen that is available to the cells and they begin to die. Brain damage can occur within a few minutes and death can occur within eight to ten minutes. This is why it is essential to return blood flow as quickly as possible and where CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) comes into play. CPR is the manual compression of the heart by an outside (of the body) source, such as another person or machine. This allows the blood flow to be maintained and the body to receive the oxygen that it needs. CPR helps to provide the function of the heart pumping until the cause of the disruption can be determined and corrected (in some cases the cause cannot be determined and the person dies even with effective CPR). Although CPR is not as effective as our own heart function, but it is better than doing nothing.

Identifying Who Needs CPR

There are several steps that should be completed in a quick and efficient manner prior to starting CPR. It is important to make sure that a person who looks like they need CPR, actual does need it. This might sound crazy, but if you give CPR to someone who does not need it, you can hurt them. Therefore, the first step is to determine if the person is conscious or unconscious. If they appear unconscious, yFast Facts CPRou should tap or shake their shoulder while asking loudly, “Are you OK?” If they do not respond and you are by yourself with immediate access to a telephone, call 911 prior to starting CPR. If you are not alone, have someone call 911 while you start CPR. If an AED (Automated External Defibrillator) is available, apply the pads to the person as shown by the instructions and follow the commands from the machine. There are special cases, such as possible drowning, where you will provide one minute of CPR prior to calling 911.

CPR Basics

The steps for CPR are simple and easy. The key is to take the time to learn them and remain calm in an emergency situation. A way to focus on providing good CPR is called CAB, which is short for Compressions, Airway and Breathing. This is because the most important thing to restore function of is the circulatory system. By compressing the chest, it mimics the movement not only of the heart pumping, but the lungs breathing. The significant thing to remember is to allow the chest to fully relax (or recoil) in between each compression. By allowing the lungs to expand, they will draw in air to provide oxygen that will then get dispersed throughout the body by the action of the heart being pumped. In order to insure that a person is able to take in air during the compressions, check their mouth to see if there is anything in there that could potentially be blocking their throat. If so, gently roll them onto their side and try to remove the object prior to rolling them on their back to provide CPR. Hands Only CPR is being promoted to encourage people who are non-medically trained to deliver potentially lifesaving intervention without the need of giving mouth-to-mouth breathing. For the steps of CPR, please refer to Fast Facts. Please note that CPR for children and infants is slightly different than that of adults. In most cases, the reason they need resuscitation is not from a cardiac problem (like most adults), but respiratory problem (such as choking, suffocation, or drowning). This means that you want give two minutes of CPR prior to calling 911. You have an increased chance of a child/infant of regaining respirations and, therefore, cardiac function the quicker an intervention is provided. In all cases, it is important to have the person on firm, flat surface to be able to provide CPR that is effective.

CPR has been proven to be lifesaving and it is easy to learn. If you want to take a course with the American Red Cross or American Heart Association, that is awesome! If you do not have the time or interest in taking a full course, please take a moment to watch a two minute video on the American Red Cross website that demonstrates “Hands Only CPR,” it is what could make the difference in whether or not someone lives!