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From bystander to lifesaver

PHSA Communications staff member, Joyce Lo, talks about what she learned at the BCEHS "Be a Lifesaver" event on June 1.
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​Joining me (Joyce) at the "Be a lifesaver" event are colleagues Yasmin and Martina.

​There’s definitely an advantage to having the Bee Gees song “Stayin’ Alive” stuck in your head. It can help save a life. That’s one of the many tips I picked up when I joined my colleagues at the “Be a lifesaver” event, hosted by BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) on June 1. 

Although it wasn’t my first time participating in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and automated external defibrillator (AED) training, it's been more than a year since I completed my first aid course, and almost everything I learned had vanished from memory. 

In BC, the bystander CPR rate is only 25 per cent, and research has shown that early CPR and AED use doubles the chances of survival. This event was the perfect opportunity to refresh my skills alongside my colleagues, so I would know how to help them, as well as strangers, family and friends if there was ever a need. Here's what I learned:

Download the PulsePoint app

Developed by BCEHS, PulsePoint is a smartphone app that crowd-sources help for sudden cardiac arrest. When a cardiac arrest is reported through 9-1-1, BCEHS dispatchers can send the location to people within 400 metres. Users of the app, who have verified they have hands-only CPR training, can then attend to the victim and begin CPR. The app includes a metronome to help you time your compressions while you perform CPR. It also shows users a map pinpointing the location of nearby portable public defibrillators; another tool we can safely use before paramedics arrive. 

There's a difference between a heart attack & cardiac arrest

One of the first things before starting CPR is knowing whether the person is having a heart attack or cardiac arrest. A heart attack victim will require immediate medical attention (by calling 9-1-1), but they do not need CPR if they are breathing, conscious and their heart is still beating. With a cardiac arrest, the person loses consciousness, stops breathing or is gasping, and their heart stops beating. That's when 9-1-1 is called and CPR is crucial in keeping the person alive while an ambulance is on the way.   


A new technique - Hands-only CPR

Most people envision CPR as a combination of chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth breathing. Hands-only CPR is a new method which only utilizes chest compressions to keep the air and blood circulating in a person experiencing cardiac arrest. 

The hands-only method has proven to be just as effective as standard CPR (compressions and mouth-to-mouth breathing) when used during the first six minutes of a victim's cardiac arrest. Once hands-only CPR is started, an AED is required to restore a normal rhythm to the heart, which is why the PulsePoint smartphone app is really handy, because it can also provide the closest location to a defibrillator.

Press hard, make it count

Working in pairs, my colleague Yasmin and I alternated between a series of compressions on a medical mannequin as "Stayin' Alive" played in the background, perfectly timed at 100 beats per minute to keep circulation going. A steady stream of BCEHS paramedics would stop by to check on our technique and answer questions. Each of them provided us with useful tips such as keeping our elbows locked straight and pushing down with our top hand to make sure our compressions had the right amount of pressure and rhythm to kick-start a person’s heart. 

With AED training, it was important to know where to position the electrode pads on the patient and to remember to resume compressions once the shock has been delivered. The defibrillator provided audio and text instructions, making this very simple to use.

Final thoughts

All in all, the training was definitely not as complicated as I thought it would be. The 30-minute session didn’t feel rushed, and it was fun to be practicing these crucial life skills with my teammates. The instruction provided by BCEHS gave me the confidence I needed to perform CPR and use a defibrillator. Beyond “Stayin’ Alive,” I’m also looking forward to finding more songs to add to my own “100-hit list.”  

A special thanks to BCEHS for hosting this informative event and to paramedic practice educator Ryan Ackerman for leading our session. 

“Be a lifesaver” by the numbers

  • Over 1,000 members of the public are estimated to have participated in the province-wide community paramedic-led “Be a lifesaver” events
  • 521 people participated in the Robson Square event
  • Most attendees per session: 61 
  • CPR mannequins used for training at Robson Square: 35

SOURCE: From bystander to lifesaver ( )
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