People are Huge Screwups
So when it comes to CPR, “better late than never” doesn’t really apply (unlike, say, menstruation). But that doesn’t mean that you’re a lost cause. Maybe somebody will have the courage to step in right away and do what needs to be done. The only problem is whether they can recall what that is. Yes, compound the disagreement among experts with the poor education and retention and you get exactly what you might expect: people screwing up. People can blow it at any stage of the CPR by forgetting details or the steps completely.
While this is in no way a substitute for a real class (where you hopefully pay attention), here are the basic steps to performing the ABC CPR method (no joking):
After you’ve checked that they do need CPR and called a friggin’ ambulance, open and check the Airways. Do it by tilting the head back and lifting the chin forward while checking their breath and chest again to be sure that they’re not just faking it or asleep or something. With no respiration, it’s time to do some Breathing. Two breaths should do it, making sure that their chest is rising to indicate it’s working. Check their pulse again so you don’t Hulk out on someone who doesn’t need it. Resisting any urge to cop a feel, Compress the chest between the nips with palm-on-palm thrusts. This isn’t a time to vag out: you need to go in two inches deep, twice every second. You’re going to do thirty compressions, then two breaths, check for breathing and repeat until someone more qualified tells you to stop.
Now, honestly, did you know all that? Now that you think about it, do they ever bother to check for breathing or pulse in the movies? And could you perform CPR perfectly under duress? Well, don’t feel bad if you said no, because around half of the people who try perform what the kids from 2008 (and everyone else today) call an “epic fail”. Sometimes they forget to check the airways (huge mistake), forget to do the breaths (monstrously huge mistake) or forget to do the compressions (mistake of “Birdemic” proportions). More commonly, people forget the number of compressions, the number of breaths, the ratio between them, perform everything too fast, perform too slow… you get the idea.
The good news is that we aren’t able to prove that doing CPR badly is worse than doing nothing at all, just that it usually is. Cases of bystanders doing only chest compressions fair slightly better for the victims than cases with no assistance, but survival rates are lower in cases where only breathing is done or the CPR is performed incorrectly. So, hey, might as well give it a shot! Except one person trying prohibits someone more knowledgeable from doing it properly. Now we’re starting to understand that pesky “bystander effect” thing.
Most People are Just Doomed
So what if, by some miracle, everything goes right? You collapse unresponsive, but your own personal Jesus Christ flies into action without hesitation. They use the correct form of CPR, which they had drilled in during their very recent refresher course, and therefore don’t screw up any aspect of the procedure. Surely then you’d be safe?
As it turns out, not really. CPR simply is not intended to actually save anyone. Regardless of how well the action is performed, it has to be coupled with further medical attention, typically defibrillation, to have a chance at bringing people back. It’s hard to say exactly how good your chances can be, but if you’re attended to immediately and get your shock on as soon as possible (about 3-5 minutes) you have about a fifty-fifty shot of pulling through. Yeah.
According to the American Heart Associate, if you have to wait for that defib, even with someone working CPR magic on you, you’re pretty much screwed. Your survival rate takes a serious dive after that five minute mark. The average survival rate for all people who do get CPR is between five and ten percent. This number is higher in places with good ambulance response times and high CPR training like Seattle (about 30% survival) and much lower in places with opposite conditions like New York City (about 1-2% survival). Maybe God really does hate New Yorkers. The point is, most people are just boned.
There is a shiny beacon of hope. The propagation of Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) has put that lifesaving jolt of sweet electric current closer than ever. Unlike manual defibs used by professionals, these are highly automated or “idiot resistant7”. People simply need to stick on the pads and hit a button while an electronic voice coaches them through it. It’s slower and less precise, but you’re way more likely to get it in time. Rolling them out in malls, airports and Las Vegas casinos has even gotten survival rates up between 50 and 74%! This means your odds of survival will probably never be over two-thirds, and you better start being careful when taking naps in public.
- - Resuscitation is Poorly Understood : http://www.yourfunnystuff.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/no-drowning-sign.jpg http://www.coloring.me/coloring-pages/000266-coloring.gif http://www.inewscatcher.com/timages/f18324881982c284dc99089b04a5bb3e.jpg
- - The Education is Suspect: http://lifestyleezine.com/blog/dentists-hamilton/files/2009/10/dentist_patient_nightmare.jpg http://cosmetic-makeovers.com/files/posts/mannequins_big_breasts.jpg http://www.ariamedical.com/media/catalog/product/cache/1/image/5e06319eda06f020e43594a9c230972d/A/M/AMER3B-W19500.jpg
- - People Don’t Bother to Help: http://blogs.pitch.com/fatcity/drunk%20girl.jpg http://images.huffingtonpost.com/gen/53970/thumbs/s-ASLEEP-large.jpg
- - People are Huge Screwups: http://www.cepis.org.pe/tutorial4/i/images/temas/fig20.gif http://homepage.mac.com/viktor2/btw/StanHeartPunch.jpg
- - Most People are Just Doomed: http://image16.webshots.com/17/9/58/45/2621958450101978915iPbmNh_ph.jpg http://mccrappy.com/wp-content/uploads/2006/01/defibrillator.jpg