Happy Valentine’s Day! It’s all about the heart – heart-shaped chocolates, heart-shaped valentines, red roses to tell someone ‘I heart (love) you’, and of course, <3 in our digital age. But do you know what to do if one of your loved ones suddenly collapses because their heart isn’t working? CPR (Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation) helps move blood with oxygen in it through the body, especially to the brain, to keep the body ‘alive’ until a trained rescuer can arrive. CPR can literally be the difference between life and death. You’re thinking, ‘no way, no how…that’s for doctors…I might hurt them…I might get some disease…I can’t learn something so difficult’, but anyone can do it, really. I do strongly recommend taking a class. Fortunately it doesn’t take much time to learn (2-4 hours), anyone can learn (I was first certified at 15), and there are a number of places in your community where you can become certified. In the U.S, I recommend contacting the American Red Cross, the American Heart Association, your local YMCA or Park District. In some towns the local fire or police department may offer classes. In other countries the equivalent organizations can help.
A word of caution though, everyone is talking about hands-only CPR, even tough guy Vinnie Jones, but it’s important to remember that for children and all drowning victims ‘traditional CPR’, with mouth-to-mouth and pushing the chest is recommended. Why all the hoopla about ‘hands only’ when it’s not the best for everyone? Some good reasons, some not so good. A good reason is that so few people learn CPR that it was decided that some CPR is better than no CPR. Hands-only is designed primarily for cardiac arrest victims (heart attack) where there is still oxygen in the system and the goal is to circulate the oxygen. Problem is, only a highly-trained expert can tell the difference between cardiac arrest, where the heart has stopped but there is still oxygen in the blood, and another reason for collapse, say drowning, where there is no oxygen in the system so just pumping the chest pushes un-oxygenated blood around the body which won’t keep vital organs ‘alive’. Children are so small they don’t have enough oxygen in the system to circulate for very long. Finally, a (discredited) study showed that people are afraid of doing mouth-to-mouth on a stranger. I agree with the ‘something is better than nothing’, but I am not buying the fear of strangers argument as defense since more than 80% of the time someone is near a loved one when they collapse. If it was your child or loved one I can’t imagine you would object to lip-to-lip contact. Face it, if it were my child who just got pulled from the pool, was blue and needed CPR until the paramedics arrived, I’d be willing to do mouth-to-mouth on a crocodile if that’s what it took to keep my child alive. The desire to save someone you love is instinctual, even in animals. But unlike animals, we can call 911 and do CPR until help arrives, we can help someone stay alive.
If you love your child, don’t just give them candy and hugs this Valentine’s Day, sign up for a CPR class – and make sure they teach you mouth-to-mouth, not just ‘hands only’.