A life in your hands

Posted on: 13 Sep 2017

On a few occasions when out training I’ve come across a roadside defibrillator and almost thought its was someone’s sense of humour that they had placed it at the end of a torturous climb. Maybe they have been strategically placed at places where people who have been exerting themselves need them the most!

Joking aside, it’s often been a matter I’ve pondered many times, ‘What would I do if someone I was out training with suddenly keeled over?’ How many of us would really know what to do? Not many I expect.

So when I was approached with the opportunity to find out a bit more information about what to do in the event of sudden cardiac arrest I thought it was information that while not typical content for my blog would well be worth sharing with all you particularly active buzzers.

It’s a fact that while the kind of physical exertion that many of us like to put ourselves through in the name of the sports we love can increase our risk. According to the Journal of Internal Medicine, the “Paradox of Sport” means that in addition to the benefits of physical activity, vigorous exertion can sometimes increase the risk of cardiac events.

So ask yourself again, in a situation of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA)would you know what to do? Don’t have the answers? Then read on...

Here are some facts, information and advice about SCA provided by defibshop, the UK's only independent defibrillator retailer, which I hope will prove invaluable:  

  • When someone suffers a sudden cardiac arrest (SCA), for every minute that they go without CPR and defibrillation their survival chance can decrease by 10-14%

  • Anyone can suffer an SCA at any time, no matter what their age or fitness level.

  • The risk of sudden cardiac death (SCD) approximately doubles during physical activity and is between two and three times higher in athletes compared to non-athletes.

So, as you can see, it’s incredibly important for everyone to know what to do if a person they are with suffers a SCA. This is even more important if the victim is doing something such as climbing a mountain or trail-running where help could be some distance away.

What is SCA?
An SCA is when the heart unexpectedly stops beating. It occurs suddenly and shows few symptoms. Death can occur within minutes if the victim doesn't receive the necessary treatment.

The signs of someone suffering an SCA are a sudden lack of responsiveness and no detectable breathing. Many people panic at this stage and delay taking action because they are afraid they’ll hurt the patient, when in fact, it’s of paramount importance that you act as quickly as possible.

Just remember, anyone who suffers an SCA is classed as clinically dead, so there is no way you can put them in a worse state by performing CPR or using a defibrillator.

What can I do if someone near me suffers an SCA? 
If someone near you suffers an SCA, make sure you are out of danger. This means getting out of the way of anything that might fall on you or collide with you, or moving away from a fire.

Check the victim’s responses by shouting their name and tapping hard on their shoulders, then check to see if they are breathing. You now need to immediately call 999 (or whatever the emergency services number is in the country you’re in).

Once aware of the situation, the emergency services operator should be able to guide you through CPR and advise where to find the nearest defibrillator.

Begin CPR
Once you have called the emergency services and have correctly established that someone is suffering an SCA, you must begin CPR. This can understandably be quite an intimidating experience, but it is an incredibly necessary step, as without immediate treatment, 90-95% of SCA victims will die.

To perform CPR...

●      Put the heel of your hand on top of the breastbone in the centre of the victim's chest

●      Place your other hand on top of the first hand, and interlock your fingers

●      Position yourself over the victim with your shoulders above your hands and press down about three inches using your body weight

●      Then, keeping your fingers interlocked and your hands on the victim's chest, allow their chest to come back to its original position

●      Repeat this process 30 times (at about two compressions per second)

If you can’t figure out how to perform CPR properly or you panic, the emergency services operator will be able to direct you through the process.

If you can, start defibrillation
The emergency services operator should be able to advise you if there is a defibrillator nearby. If you have decided to run a race or climb a mountain in unfamiliar terrain, it is well worth checking where the nearest defibrillator is before you begin the activity, so that you are able to access it in the event of an emergency.

If you are in a location where you can’t access a defibrillator, the best thing to do is carry on with CPR. During this time, the emergency services operator will try to get a defibrillator to you as soon as possible.

Portable defibrillators
If you often find yourself in the wilderness, climbing mountains or trekking across unmanned terrain, it's worth investing in a portable defibrillator. These devices are small and can be easily carried along with other supplies.

If you’re travelling in a big group or you know that you’re heading somewhere that emergency services will find difficult to get to, carrying a portable defibrillator can be the difference between life and death.

So if you’ve stuck with this blog post and got the very end then I hope the advice is something you never have to use, but in the event of a SCA, you should all now be better prepared to provide the right prompt resonse. It is far better to be prepared, especially on those long often isolated runs, walks and rides you all smash out frequently.

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