As The Heart Beats, The Rules Change
Even if you think you’ve mastered all the rules of calculus in a previous semester, it is never a bad idea to go back to basics before taking a derivatives-loaded physics course. The same principle applies when it comes to lifesaving basics. However, the difference lies in the stakes: losing track of the cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) norms might cost more than some marks on a Waves test.
A first-year health science student explains how anxious she was at first when she registered for the Dawson First Response Team. “I had done qualifications in the past, but I felt like it was a good idea to get a fresh start before getting involved. It makes me feel more confident to consolidate my learning.”
Saving lives is a matter of continual education. Research evolves at a certain pace, and the rules to follow during CPR procedures are often modified to ensure maximal efficiency. Once you have assimilated the rules, it can be hard to keep track of the new recommendations and to change the reflexes that have been developed in the past. The most common mnemonic to remember when you find a non-breathing victim used to be ABC--Airway-Breathing-Compressions--referring to, in order, the body systems you need to attend to as a rescuer. Now, the CAB procedure is recommended by the American Heart Association. Therefore, compressions should be done before opening the airway and performing the “mouth-to-mouth”.
The first thing to do if an unconscious victim comes along is to contact the emergency services (911). It is preferable to ask another person to do this step so that the rescuer can begin CPR as fast as possible. Before compressing, pinching the trapezius muscle (going down from the back of the neck) and urging vocally the victim to wake up are two ways to make sure he or she is actually unconscious. Chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth can then be performed in a ratio of 30:2 (30 compressions, 2 breaths). To start the compressions, it is necessary to position the heel of the hand along the middle of the sternum and to intertwine the ten fingers. The chest should go down around 1.5 inches for babies and 2 inches for children and adults, at a pace of one hundred compressions per minute. The following steps are mainly for trained responders, considering the techniques involved. The chin has to be lifted to open the airways, and a mask has to be positioned on the victim’s face to give the 2 breaths in a safe way for the person who gives them. The cycles have to be repeated until the arrival of the ambulance.
Ideally, the CPR training should be taken again once the qualification expires. This feeling is shared by many, as memory has a tendency to fade away with time. There are many opportunities to get a formal training in First Aid procedures, including one held at Dawson every semester for the First Response Team. For those who wish to go deeper in their training, it is also possible to take an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) course, which teaches how to operate such a device. AEDs are available in many public places and turn out to be one of the most important tools to save a life. You can never have too much knowledge!