every minute counts....
Sudden cardiac arrest occurs for many different reasons. The majority of causes unfortunately are not reversible, however there are some causes that can be treated by immediately providing effective resuscitation during those first critical minutes.
How do you know which is which at the time?
What if you make the wrong decision?
Is it safe to do something? Anything?
There are many questions that suddenly come to mind when you are unexpectedley faced with a true life and death situation. However those with even basic first aid training know that they don't need to actually make the big decisions, they just need to make sure that when an emergency care professional arrives on scene, it is still possible for treatment decisions to be made by those with more training and equipment.
What does this mean?
To put it simply, the brain requires oxygen to remain alive. That oxygen is carried in the blood, which is pumped to the brain by the heart.
If the pump fails, our brain doesn't get any oxygen and begins to die.
If breathing fails, the oxygen in our blood is depleted so the brain doesn't get any oxygen and begins to die.
In sudden cardiac arrest, the heart stops pumping effectively and breathing ceases, resulting in the inability for the brain to maintain an adequate supply of oxygen. Subsequently, the brain begins to die and other chemical anomalies also occur which adversely affects the ability of the body to recover.
Once the brain is dead, life has ended. There is no treatment that can be provided to reverse brain death once it has occurred. Resuscitation attempts may still continue, however the same outcome will always result. Death.
Research has identified that for every minute of cardiac arrest without resuscitation, the chance of recovery decreases by ~10%. After 10 minutes, the possibility of survival is extremely limited irrespective of what treatment is provided after that time.
Paramedics provide amazing care in the pre-hospital environment by utilising sophisticated medical equipment and highly practised skills to enhance the chance of survival to patients suffering cardiac arrest. However brain death is irreversible, so if the brain has already died prior to the arrival of the Paramedics, there is simply nothing more that can be achieved, and a precious life is lost.
What happens in the first ten minutes following sudden cardiac arrest makes the difference between having a slim chance of survival, and no chance whatsoever. Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation can keep the brain alive by providing oxygen to the blood and pumping the oxygenated blood to the brain. Every minute really counts, so the sooner resuscitation commences and the more effective resuscitation is performed, the better the chance of survival.
All qualified First Aiders understand these principles and have been trained in CPR techniques. They may not be well practiced, or even feel very confident, but they have committed to attending the training so they are probably willing to assist during those vital first ten minutes whilst professional help is still on the way, and that may just be the difference between a miracle recovery, instead of an unexpected tragedy.
The truth is they are everywhere. In public places, in work places, in cars just driving past, in fact they could be anywhere. Many individuals and organisations take a very pro-active approach towards first aid knowledge. It is required by legislation in many workplaces, it is taught in schools, it is recognised in sporting clubs and considered a mandatory requirement for many vocations and recreational activities.
The importance of the first ten minutes and the general availability of those willing to help has now resulted in the provision of defibrillation equipment, often publicly accessible, to further increase the chance of survival for a patient experiencing a sudden cardiac arrest.
AED's (Automatic External Defibrillators) and 1st 10' A+B Kits (Airway + Breathing Resuscitation Kits) are now being provided in many workplaces and public areas so that the most effective treatment for sudden cardiac arrest can begin immediately without the need to wait for the arrival of professional help, because every minute really counts.
So where are these First Aiders that are willing to help?