Giving CPR? Focus on your hands, and a Bee Gees hit

Giving CPR? Focus on your hands, and a Bee Gees hit

CHAMPAIGN — Cardiac arrest can be a sudden and swift killer, but you may be able to come to the rescue with your hands and a classic disco song.

"Hands only" CPR, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation, done with chest compression only, has been shown to work as well for adults as conventional CPR done with both chest compression and rescue breaths, according to the American Heart Association.

And there are just two steps to know:

1. Call 9-1-1.

2. Push hard and fast at the center of the person's chest to the beat of the Bee Gees' song, "Stayin' Alive."

Cardiac arrest, a sudden and unexpected electrical malfunction of the heart that causes blood to stop flowing to the brain, lungs and other vital organs, usually causes death within minutes without treatment.

More than 420,000 people in the U.S. suffer cardiac arrest in private — non-hospital — settings every year, but only about one-third of those people get CPR from a bystander.

Saturday in Urbana, a 2-year-old girl was one of the lucky ones. A lifeguard at the Crystal Lake Park Family Aquatic Center noticed a toddler who had been doing back floats in the leisure pool was not breathing. The lifeguard administered CPR, the girl threw up in the pool and a tragedy was averted.

Since most cardiac arrests happen in non-medical settings, it's important for more than medical providers to know how to respond, says Dr. Abe Kocheril, a Christie Clinic cardiac electrophysiologist.

Hands-only CPR not only stacks up comparably with conventional CPR, it doesn't require the contact with a stranger some people fear with rescue breaths, Kocheril says.

"Because of the infection potential, lots of bystanders are afraid of picking something up," he says.

It's also simpler and less tiring, Kocheril says.

"I personally think hands-only is an advance," he says.

One important distinction to know: CPR is for someone who has suffered cardiac arrest and not a heart attack.

In a heart attack, the flow of blood to a section of the heart muscle is suddenly blocked. Someone suffering a heart attack will show such symptoms as shortness of breath and chest pain or discomfort and needs to get to the hospital right away, Kocheril says.

People in cardiac arrest collapse and lose consciousness and need CPR immediately while an ambulance is en route. Sometimes cardiac arrest is the result of a past heart attack and sometimes viral infections or toxins, such as alcohol or cocaine use, cause a weakening that result in later short circuits, Kocheril says.

He urges everyone to find a hands-only CPR class to learn the proper hand positioning and what else to do to try and save the life of someone in cardiac arrest, such as administering a shock with an automated external defibrillator.

Online demonstrations of hands-on CPR are available, and Kocheril says these are better than no training at all. And even if you're untrained, trying hands-only CPR on someone who's collapsed with cardiac arrest beats doing nothing at all.

"The worst thing would be to have somebody die in front of you," he says. "But it doesn't take long to get trained."

CPR numbers to know

70 percent: Americans who say they feel helpless when someone goes into cardiac arrest, because they don't know what to do.

80 percent: People who suffer cardiac arrest when they aren't in a hospital.

90 percent: People who suffer cardiac arrest outside a hospital who die. CPR, especially if it's started right away, can double or triple chances of survival, according to the American Heart Association.

100: The number of beats a minute you need to push during CPR.

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