Could you do CPR to save a life right now?

Be prepared for when the need arises

Monday, February 22 2016

If  you found someone unconscious and unresponsive right now, would you know what to do? If you are in the slightest doubt, read on, as this could make the difference between life and death.

“The very first thing to do if you find someone unconscious, is to try to rouse them and check whether they are breathing normally,” says the Gauteng campus manager of Netcare Education’s Faculty of Emergency and Critical Care, David Stanton, who is also the chairperson of the Resuscitation Council of Southern Africa.

When is CPR necessary?

“If you cannot wake them, and they are not breathing normally, this constitutes a life-threatening medical emergency which requires immediate action.”

If there is someone else present, instruct them to call for emergency medical assistance. If you are alone with the unconscious person, phone for assistance but put your phone on speaker-mode so that you can begin resuscitation efforts while calling for help. It is imperative that you, as the caller, explains the nature of the emergency and provide accurate directions to the location.

What is CPR?

“Cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR as it is more commonly known, is a resuscitation technique that mimics the action of the heartbeat and breathing. CPR maintains the flow of oxygenated blood to the brain, which prevents brain damage when the heart stops beating,” Stanton explains.

CPR has many applications for emergency situations where a person cannot breathe, with some of the most common being a heart attack or near drowning.

Steps to saving a life

  1. Lay the unresponsive person on their back on a flat surface.
  2. Place one of your hands flat in the middle of the person’s chest, and the other hand on top of it.
  3. Press down hard, compressing the chest by about 5cm, and then release the pressure to allow the heart to refill with blood.
  4. Continue repeating the chest compressions at a rate of about two compressions per second.
  5. For every 30 chest compressions, give the person two rescue breaths.
  6. Rescue breaths are achieved by pinching the person’s nose closed, tilting their head back and covering their mouth with yours, then exhaling into their mouth until the chest rises.
  7. Continue to perform CPR until the person revives, or professional help arrives.

How to do CPR on a baby

“The technique for performing CPR on an infant is broadly similar to that used for adults, however there are two aspects that need to be adjusted,” Stanton notes.

“Chest compressions should be to a depth of 4cm and the action should be performed using one hand only, or, for tiny babies, using two fingers only.”

“The chest compressions should be performed at the same rate and with the same ratio to rescue breaths, as for CPR on adults.”

Be prepared

“We encourage sharing this information as widely as possible:  discuss these basic life-saving steps with your family, colleagues, friends and child minders to ensure that they would know what to do if the need for CPR arises,” Stanton advises.

“Ideally, you should thoroughly familiarise yourself with these steps because under stressful, emergency conditions you do not want to waste precious time reading CPR instructions. But keep a guideline of the basic steps of CPR somewhere handy – for example on a notice board, inside a cupboard, or near the telephone – as this can help to keep the techniques fresh in your mind and provide easy reference, if needed.”

Stanton says it is a good idea to stock up on disposable one-way mouthpieces for performing rescue breaths. “Mouthpieces are available at pharmacies. As they are usually quite cheap, you could buy several and leave them in your car, in your home and at your workplace.”

According to Stanton, if a person is performing CPR on an adult and they are not trained or not willing to perform rescue breaths, then it is acceptable to do chest compressions alone. “Remember, though, that this only applies in the case of CPR on adults. For children, the rescue breaths are considered a necessity,” Stanton concluded.


Issued by:           Martina Nicholson Associates (MNA) on behalf of Netcare 911

Contact:              Martina Nicholson, Graeme Swinney, Meggan Saville or Devereaux Morkel

Telephone:         (011) 469 3016

Email:                   mar[email protected], [email protected], [email protected], or [email protected]