Common Sense for Seniors staff took their CPR and AED (automated external defibrillator) training on Wednesday, and we’re glad we did. We learned techniques that can help save the lives of people who would almost certainly otherwise die due to sudden cardiac arrest. We were also taught the Heimlich maneuver, which can save people who are choking before they go into cardiac arrest.
Our course was organized by the American Heart Association, and you can find one near you through Heart Association’s website. Online versions are available as well.
Perhaps the most important takeaway was that we should yell for someone to call 911 before starting any emergency procedure on our own. That way, we’ll be sure that help is on the way. In fact, the point of CPR is to sustain the person suffering cardiac arrest until help arrives and professionals can take over. Without CPR, brain damage can begin within minutes.
If you’re alone with the stricken person, you’re going to have to call 911 yourself, and your cell phone is your best bet. You can put it on speakerphone and keep it beside you so that the emergency dispatch operator can ask questions and give you instructions. Seniors — this requires that you know how to put your cell on speakerphone. It would be a good idea to practice in advance.
My online research indicates that if you’re administering CPR to someone for ten minutes or more, the prospects for their survival grow pretty dim. And as we learned at training, administering CPR is physically tiring. It may not be possible for a single person to go much beyond ten minutes. Before that time is up, you want to see EMS personnel stride into the room, set up their AED, and administer a shock to get the heart started again. (Today’s AEDs are extremely smart, incidentally. If a shock is not advisable they will say so.)
If one of us were to be stricken at home, the short time frame would be a problem. We live twenty minutes from town, where the volunteer ambulance corps is headquartered.
So should we purchase our own AED? Our instructor pointed out that police and fire vehicles typically carry AEDs, so we would not necessarily have to wait for an ambulance to arrive. A deputy sheriff might be on patrol nearby when an emergency occurs, ready and able to help; or a fire truck might make it up from Branchport, just five miles away.
We don’t have any special risk factors for cardiac arrest, so we’ll take some time to consider whether we’re going to spend $1,200 on an AED. We know some EMS volunteers and will check with them on likely arrival times. We’ll also ask our physician’s opinion.
Meanwhile, we’d like to hear from our readers on any experiences you might have had with CPR, the Heimlich maneuver, and AEDs. Have you ever had to administer an emergency procedure? Have you ever benefited from one?