Home is where the heart is
Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month
October is Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month. During this month, our priority focuses on raising further awareness about the condition and how lives can be saved. Our hope is to join other training organisations up and down the country, to collectively improve casualty survival rates.
Picture this scenario: a casualty on a hospital bed with his heart not functioning. A doctor and a nurse frantically arrive at the scene and immediately administer chest compressions, before supplying air into his lungs with the aid of a bag and mask. By this time, other medical staff arrive with concerned looks on their faces. The casualty is prepped for defibrillation. The assisting nurse places one electrode on the right, below the clavicle (collar bone) and the other just below and to the left of the pectoral muscle.
“Everyone stand clear” the doctor instructs and manually delivers a shock to the casualty. The situation is incredibly tense and could go either way. Just when one thinks all hope is lost, the patient’s heart shows signs of beating. The medical team has saved the day. Many of us have probably watched TV shows and films where someone suffers a sudden cardiac arrest in hospital and is saved by a dedicated team of doctors and nurses, who battle tirelessly to bring the person back to life.
Did you know?
There are more incidents of sudden cardiac arrest out of hospital. In-hospital sudden cardiac arrests are around 27,000 per year, compared to over 30,000 out-of-hospital. And when you consider around 7 million people in the UK live with cardiovascular disease, including heart disease, heart failure and stroke, the number of out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrests aren’t likely to reduce any time soon sadly.
Did you also know that while the chances of survival from an in-hospital cardiac arrest are approximately 25%, sudden cardiac arrests out-of-hospital are much lower, at around 10%? It would be great to see those survival rates improve everywhere.
So how can we improve the odds?
When someone has an out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrest, the most important thing is to focus on what’s called the Chain of Survival. The Chain of Survival is made up of 4 key steps:
Step 1: Early recognition and call for help
At first instance, it’s important to know the difference between a heart attack and a sudden cardiac arrest.
A heart attack is a serious medical emergency where the supply of blood to the heart is suddenly blocked, usually by a blood clot. The person’s chest may feel like it’s being squeezed by a heavy object, sometimes described as “vice-like pain” The experience can radiate from the chest to the jaw, neck, arms and back, accompanied with shortness of breath, feeling weak and possibly lightheaded.
With a sudden cardiac arrest, the casualty’s heart suddenly stops circulating blood around the body, usually due to the abnormally functioning electrical signals in the heart. The heart stops pumping blood and the brain is starved of oxygen. The person will be unconscious and not breathing normally.
Both are serious emergencies that require immediate treatment. This is absolutely vital in the case of a sudden cardiac arrest, as death can occur within minutes without treatment. The most important thing to do first is to call for help – from those around you, and by dialling 999 to contact the emergency services.
Step 2: Bystander CPR
The second step in the Chain of Survival is for someone on the scene to perform CPR immediately.
They don’t necessarily have to be first aid trained, although being armed with CPR skills and knowledge will greatly assist in ensuring the correct procedures are followed, thus improving the casualty’s chances of survival. Could this be you?
Learning to perform CPR doesn’t require a degree or years of study, and you don’t need to have a medical background. It can be performed by people from all walks of life, with just a day’s training. And it literally saves lives.
For every minute without CPR, the chances of survival reduce by up to 10 percent. If CPR is performed early, ideally within the first 5 minutes, and with access to an automated external defibrillator (AED), the chances of survival can as much as double.
The more people that are trained in CPR, the better for everyone. The ultimate aim is to have many people trained in first aid, so that we are ready to assist a casualty suffering from an out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrest, giving him/her the best possible chance of survival.
Step 3: Early Defibrillation
The next step in the Chain of Survival is early defibrillation. Every second and minute are vital. Early defibrillation is most effective when it is administered within the first few minutes of a Sudden Cardiac Arrest. Wide research indicates the survival rates are highest when defibrillation is delivered within three minutes of a a Sudden Cardiac Arrest. The location of a defibrillator is the key and knowing where one is placed saves minutes, minutes we can’t afford in a first aid emergency.
Step 4: Post-resuscitation care
The final step is the post-resuscitation care a casualty receives from medical professionals. Remember, this wouldn’t have been possible without your actions at the start.
People who have performed CPR, or are trained to do so, are everyday heroes. When their skills are unexpectedly called upon, these people play a significant role in the community and places of work to help save lives.
Like what you read? Join us in spreading the word during Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month by sharing this article.
How would you like to take it a step further?
Attend a first aid training course that’ll empower you with life-saving skills to help someone. Sudden Cardiac Arrest is certainly a serious situation, but it is one that can end in relief, appreciation and hope if someone nearby is trained to act swiftly and accordingly.
Will that be you?
For more information on how to register for a first aid training course, please select the relevant courses below.
These adult CPR protocols complement first aid training in assisting a casualty in an event of an emergency. There is no substitute for thorough training covering both practical and theory exercises. Please seek medical advice in all emergency events. The protocols are a guidance and in line with the Resuscitation Council UK.
Be a lifesaver, not a bystander.