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CPR: Even in a high-tech age a hands-on technique can save lives

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

It’s a terrible feeling to watch a person in cardiac arrest slip away.

Someone in the panicked crowd gathered around the victim cries, “Somebody do something!”

Knowing cardiopulmonary resuscitation can mean the difference in life and death for someone in cardiac arrest from either a heart attack, suffocation or drowning. People want to be that “somebody” who knows how to do something in an emergency.

Capt. Jerry Howerton of Murrells Inlet-Garden City Fire and Rescue taught 58 people CPR during a training session at the Murrells Inlet Elks Lodge last month. “CPR keeps the heart beating and oxygen flowing until emergency personnel can get to the scene,” Howerton said. “When you are doing CPR you are taking over for the heart. You are compressing it, trying to move blood through the body and get oxygen to vital organs and brain.”

Howerton said the latest data from the American Heart Association discourages mouth-to-mouth resuscitation in favor of chest compression. Methods are updated every five years. Midway Fire and Rescue Battalion chief Carr Gilmore taught a class at Holy Cross-Faith Memorial Episcopal Church last week.

Here are the step-by-step basics of CPR.

• Check to see if the person is unresponsive and not breathing, struggling to breathe or gasping.

• Call 9-1-1 or direct someone else to call.

• Position the person with his or her back on the floor.

• Place the heel of one hand on the center of the chest (between the nipples) and the heel of the other hand on top of the first. Lock your elbows.

• Place your shoulders vertically above your hands and use the weight of your upper body to “fall” downward, compressing the chest 2 inches deep.

• Lift your hands slightly each time to allow chest wall to recoil.

• Compress the chest at a rate of about one hundred per minute (slightly faster than one compression per second).

• When you tire, take turns with others until paramedics arrive.

• If an automated external defibrillators (AED) is available, turn it on and follow the machine’s voice instructions. If no AED is available, continue chest compressions with as few interruptions as possible.

It’s important to know that struggling to breathe or gasping is not a sign of recovery. Initiate and continue chest compressions even if patient gasps.

Howerton said CPR gives a victim a better chance of survival. “Once we get there,” he said, “we are more likely to be able to get a shockable rhythm back on that patient and get them into a normal sustaining rhythm.”

Howerton said the fire department encourages community groups to purchase their own AED’s for clubhouses and pool houses. The class he taught at the Elks Lodge was called “Heart Saver CPR” and included how to use an automated external defibrillator, following the machine’s voice instructions. “We are seeing more homeowners associations and communities put AED’s in,” he said. “We encourage folks to talk to their HOA’s and try to get programs going or pass along information to those who make those decisions.”

Pawleys Island Police have three portable defibrillators for officers to use in case of drownings until Midway Fire and Rescue arrives. Chief Mike Fanning said officers have used the machines three times, including an instance just weeks ago. “An officer’s job is to deploy the defibrillator,” Fanning said. “If he’s in cardiac arrest, the defibrillator shock is more important than continuing CPR.”

Fire department personnel will go to a civic or community group and conduct one-night CRP training classes. Howerton said the Elks plan to make CPR training an annual event.

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