Editorial: Schools, workplaces should offer CPR training
Not everyone will be lucky enough to have Kristen McGonigle nearby when their heart decides to stop beating. McGonigle is the Concord Hospital intensive care unit nurse who was running behind 66-year-old Wolfeboro resident Steve Whitney in Portsmouth in June. Whitney received immediate, expert cardiopulmonary resuscitation from Whitney, and that, his doctors say, is almost certainly why he was alive and smiling when McGonigle was honored by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and others with a tribute that was read into the Congressional Record.
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation or CPR was invented, or some say rediscovered, in the 1960s. By now, most people have at least a vague idea of how it’s done. What many don’t have is the confidence that they need to step up and come to someone’s aid when it appears that they’ve suffered a heart attack or been the victim of an electric shock or drowning. That makes this advice, courtesy of the American Heart Association, very reassuring:
“Most people who experience cardiac arrest at home, work or in a public location die because they don’t receive immediate CPR from someone on the scene. As a bystander, don’t be afraid. Your actions can only help.” That means that there are better or best ways to perform CPR, but no method that is worse than doing nothing.
The Heart Association and the American Red Cross both provide basic instructions on performing CPR on their websites. Techniques have changed over the years, mostly to simplify them so people will step in and provide help that can double the chances that a heart attack victim will survive. Roughly three-quarters of all heart attacks occur in one’s own home. Loved ones need to know how to help, but so do coworkers and, frankly, everyone including older children. The same, by the way, goes for the Heimlich maneuver, the upward stomach or chest thrust used to dislodge food or some other object blocking a person’s (or for that matter a pet’s) airway.
The best way to learn CPR is through a short course taught by instructors from the Red Cross or another qualified organization. Techniques differ depending on the age and size of the victim. Chest compressions on an adult should be performed by placing one hand in the middle of the victim’s chest with the other atop it and using one’s weight and strength to rapidly depress the person’s chest by and inch and a half or two inches. CPR for an infant is performed, the experts say, with two or three fingers.
People who haven’t been trained by an expert should forgo the old method of alternating chest compressions with rescue breaths in the victim’s mouth and concentrate on pumping the victim’s chest. The ideal rate of compressions is 100 beats per minute, and we’ll apologize in advance for this unforgettable tip from the Heart Association.
The 100-per-minute pace can be sustained by pushing to the beat of the Bee Gees’ 1977 disco hit “Stayin Alive.” If you’ve managed to forget it, view the association’s humorous online video about CPR or, for even more laughs, check out the segment on the TV show The Office about a CPR class that employs the song as a memory aid. Warning: After working for decades to forget it, we got the song stuck in our head – but if it saves someone’s life, the pain will be worth it.
We strongly encourage every employer, every middle school and high school and social service organization to invite a certified CPR trainer to demonstrate the proper technique at your institution. The life you save, after all, may be your own.
(This editorial was updated on Oct. 25, 2012, to correct Kristen McGonigle’s first name.)