Sometimes being in the “right place at the right time” can be the difference between life and death.
A heart attack, respiratory attack or choking can all lead to sudden loss of blood flow to the brain. Knowing just some basic CPR skills can help during those first crucial minutes before EMS arrives. It was in my 9th grade Health class at Coral Springs High School where I first became certified in CPR, and every 2 years since then I have kept up that certification.
But if I’m being honest, I’m always a bit nervous. Will I remember everything that they taught me if I need to use it in an emergency? Will I panic? Does this really work?
So, as my time came again for renewal this month, I felt compelled to share my story, albeit minor, and encourage you to seek training in Basic Life Saving skills for yourself, loved ones or the stranger you encounter who may need your help.
Three years ago, those skills did kick in automatically when at the dinner table, my husband of then 19 years, suddenly stood up from the table and silently made the choking sign across his neck. Our kids were exclaiming, “what’s wrong, Dad!” ,” what are you doing?!” I quickly got up and was able to do the Heimlich maneuver on him. After several ‘blows’ the piece of steak came on out of his throat and all was well. My husband was grateful and dinner proceeded. But I have to admit that after all was said and done, I couldn’t believe I actually did the thing that I had trained for over 3o years! Each time I took the CPR class, I worried that I would not remember the steps. Thankfully it all came rushing back to me in an instant and my husband is doing just fine.
Yes, he was grateful, but I did think of what could have happened had I not received any training. And that thought was sobering.
Too many tragedies occur when a little education could have prevented them. You don’t have to be a healthcare provider to take a CPR class. Anyone can take a CPR class! And now AEDs (automatic electronic defibrillators) are commonly placed in public places with instructions said out loud to you by simply pushing a button.
As for how to help someone who is choking, I found this great short “how to” on the Heimlich maneuver, courtesy of Southeastern School of Health Sciences.
“If you’ve ever had some food go down the wrong pipe, then you know that the sensation of choking is unpleasant and frightening.
When food or another object blocks a person’s airway, the flow of oxygen to the lungs (and the rest of the body) is cut off. Without oxygen, brain damage can begin to take place within 4-6 minutes.
Choking is a serious medical emergency.
Fortunately, we have an excellent rescue technique to resolve a blocked airway. It’s called the Heimlich Maneuver, and it’s a very effective life-saving skill that everyone should know. We find that most people are quite familiar with the Heimlich maneuver, but they don’t always know exactly how or when to perform it. Here’s what to do:
- If you suspect someone is choking, ask, “Are you choking? Can you speak?”
- If the person can speak or cough, don’t perform the Heimlich Maneuver.
- If the person cannot speak or cough, then you can help.
- Stand behind the person and circle your arms around his or her waist.Make a fist and place it just above the person’s belly button. Put your other hand on top of the fist.
- Pull your fist toward you quickly and forcefully – these are called abdominal thrusts.
- Be persistent: sometimes it only takes 1 or 2 thrusts to clear the airway, but it may take more than that.
- If it doesn’t work, and the person becomes unresponsive, call 911 and begin CPR.
The HM works by using air that is trapped below the airway blockage. When you perform the thrusts with your fist, you force that air upward, which in turn pushes the object out of the airway, sometimes across the room! You can use this technique on all adults and children over the age of 1 (about walking age). For infants, we use back blows between the shoulder blade to clear a blockage – more on that next week.
One side note: The originator of this technique, Dr. Henry Heimlich, actually got the opportunity to use his rescue maneuver this past May when he saved the life of a woman at the retirement home where he lives. She was choking on a hamburger, and he calmly stepped in (at age 96) and literally performed the Heimlich maneuver. She’s doing fine and is quite grateful that she sat next to him at dinner. Providential…
It is estimated that about 100,000 lives have been saved using the Heimlich Maneuver since it was introduced in 1974. Even Dr. Heimlich at age 96 was prepared to take action. Please consider joining one of our classes that will prepare you to be the one that can step in and save a life. Register for a class today!“
Do it. Sign up for a CPR class if you haven’t taken one in a while or never have. There are loads of places to do this online and in person: