Bystanders or lifesavers?

Bystanders can make a difference. Image: Urban lifesavers

If bystanders do CPR after a cardiac arrest, they can save lives.

If you’re a bystander, and you do CPR, you can double or even treble survival rates.

In the UK, there are more than 30,000 out of hospital cardiac arrests (OOHCAs) every year. But only 7-9% of people survive. In other countries, survival after an OOHCA is much higher : it’s 21% in North Holland, 20% in Seattle and 25% in Norway.

The low survival rates in England are partly because less than half of bystanders here perform life saving CPR.  This compares with almost three quarters of Norwegians intervening. Survival rates there are up to three times higher.

Every minute without CPR or defibrillation can reduce the chances of survival by around ten per cent. After ten minutes with no CPR or defibrillation, only two out of 100 victims (or less) have a chance of surviving.

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Learn CPR from YouTube

Did you know that, in the UK, only 8% of the people who are resuscitated outside a hospital survive to go home? If we all learnt CPR from YouTube, survival rates would improve.

YOU could at least DOUBLE  the person’s chances of survival if you follow the simple instructions here. Outside hospital, most cardiac arrests happen at home, so it is likely to be a member of your family or a friend that you help.

When someone has a cardiac arrest, there’s no time to wait.

Someone has to do something straight away.

Outside a hospital that means whoever gets there first. Whether or not they – that’s YOU, actually! – have had any training with the necessary CPR.

CPR is nothing like it is on the TV. But it’s not as hard as it looks. Even if you’ve not been to a formal training session, you can learn CPR from YouTube. Vinnie Jones has already made a video with a ‘CPR lesson you’ll never forget’ . But the CPR on YouTube video below is even better. Mini Vinnie demonstrates that hands-only CPR is – literally – childsplay:

CPR is all about Call, Push, Rescue:

Call 999 for help.

Push hard and fast on the centre of the chest 30 times.

Give two Rescue breaths, if you are able and willing. It’s still worthwhile to do hands only CPR. So if you don’t want to, just don’t do the Rescue breaths.

And keep going.

Remember, you’ll at least DOUBLE the person’s chances of survival if you keep going with CPR until the ambulance arrives.

In England, we only do this so-called “bystander CPR” for around 40% of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests. In Norway, bystanders do CPR nearly twice as often, and their survival rates are MUCH better than in the UK.

We – you and me – could do much better!

As well as calling 999, the other thing to Call for, if you’re in a public place, is a defibrillator. Some hearts are what is described as ‘shockable’. In these cases, then for every MINUTE defibrillation is delayed, the chances of survival fall by around 10%.

So don’t wait for the Ambulance to get there. If you’re in a station or a shopping centre, get someone to ask for their defibrillator whilst you’re doing CPR.

Here’s what to look for in the UK:

This is what defibrillators look like in places in the UK. Image: Mirror newspaper

Most defibrillators ‘talk’ to you to tell you what to do when you open them up. If not, there are always easy instructions inside all defibrillator boxes.

To remind you exactly what to do for hands-only CPR, and to check that you are pushing hard enough and fast enough, you can get the free British Heart Foundation PocketCPR app here.

But if you really want to try doing CPR, the nearest you’re going to get to real life without it actually happening is the crisis simulator Lifesaver.

Practicing what to do in this live action movie game means you’ll be better able to help if you ever witness a cardiac arrest in real life. Try it out here (you’ll need to have Flashplayer). 

It takes a few moments for the game to load up: please wait while the circle whizzes round to reach 100. Then you have to Click that you have read and accepted the terms of the Lifesaver website. You don’t have to put your details in unless you want to, but you must press ‘Enter’. Then look down to click on ‘Menu’. Choose ‘Start Now’ for ‘Jake’.

This game is very like real life.

Pay attention! You’re about to try to restart a heart!

Although this video game is very realistic then, unlike in real life, you can always try again. Especially if you’re as old as me and don’t immediately understand all the fine details of video gaming!

Please let me know how it went!

I’m at caroline.mawer@gmail.com