Why should anyone take the time and effort to learn CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation)? If you have a cell phone, all you need to do is call 9-1-1 and the paramedics will be there in a flash. Besides, someone else may be able to start CPR. Right?
Our little patient was just 11 years old and taking weekly swimming classes. His past medical history was unremarkable and he passed every physical exam with flying colors. Suddenly, without warning, his heart basically stopped (ventricular fibrillation), and he fell into the water. Someone pulled him out and noticed that he was not breathing and he had no pulse.
Emergency medical services were called and arrived in about 10 minutes. In the meantime, a bystander started CPR. Using a defibrillator, his heart was zapped four times as he was rushed to the emergency room. Once he began to stabilize, he was transferred to a pediatric intensive care unit where he underwent therapeutic hypothermia – rapidly cooling the body down to save the brain and neurological function. A week or so later, he was brought out of his hypothermic state. He woke up in the hospital and complained about the show that was playing on the TV. The cause of his cardiac arrest was said to be a rare, congenital time bomb that no one knew was ticking.
Luckily, when this little boy’s time bomb went off, there was a bystander around who knew how to administer CPR AND use a defibrillator. Defibrillators are now commonly located in public areas like offices, malls, airports, and recreation areas. Take some time to become familiar with how they operate (a step-by-step guide is available here), and take note of where they are located in the areas you frequent. They are designed for people with no medical training, so they are fairly easy to use. And they can make the difference between life and death when someone’s heart stops. Here are a few other basic ways you can prepare yourself for emergencies:
- Have your cell phone charged and ready. Quick emergency response can save lives.
- People should take a First Aid and CPR class. You never know when you may need those skills, not only for your own family, but for a stranger. Be sure to have a well-stocked first-aid kit at home and in your car.
- Create a Family Emergency Response Plan. Try and anticipate possible emergency situations that may involve any of your family members. Teach younger children how to call 9-1-1 when needed.
- If you have a child that has a serious allergy, you should always have fresh epinephrine pens readily at hand, both at home and at school. Make sure the school/camp and your child knows what to do during an allergic emergency. Remember that bee stings and other insects could cause allergic reactions as well.
- People with serious allergies and medical conditions should wear an identifying bracelet or necklace to alert others.