How can I help if someone has a cardiac arrest?

Health & Wellness

A: Quick CPR and use of an AED can save a life!

With the recent and very public tragedy of Damar Hamlin’s cardiac arrest, a lot of folks are wondering what happened and what they could do in a similar situation. When someone’s heart stops beating, there are three things to do. First, call 911. Second, get the AED, or Automatic External Defibrillator, because it can help the heart start beating properly again. Third, perform CPR, or Cardio-Pulmonary resuscitation, which helps circulate blood around the body. To find a training near you, call your local hospital or check the Red Cross or American Heart Association’s class locator website (see Resources, below).

A cardiac arrest is when the heart stops beating. The person will suddenly fall unconscious and have no pulse or breathing. This most often occurs in older people due to a heart attack. We don’t know yet what caused Mr. Hamlin’s arrest. (We may never know – he has a right to medical privacy.) It could have been due to a blow to the chest. In general that is rare, despite lots of tackles and other impacts in sports, as it requires just the right hit at just the wrong time. It could also have been due to an underlying heart condition. There are several difficult to detect heart problems that are well-known to cause sudden cardiac arrest in athletes.

Once the heart stops pumping blood through the body, the clock starts ticking. ⏰ Without blood flow, oxygen and nutrients aren’t being delivered to the body’s organs, causing organ damage. The longer there is no blood flow, the more severe the damage. The more severe the damage, the less likely that the person will be able to recover from it or even survive. This is why time is so important! The faster you can get blood flowing again, through CPR and by using an AED, the less organ damage there will be.

CPR works by basically pumping the person’s heart for them. Forceful chest compressions help push the blood out of the heart and to the body. CPR should be started as soon as possible and continued until the AED is ready to be used. As soon as you can, put the AED on the person. It will read the situation with the person’s heart and tell you if a shock is indicated. If it is, have everyone stand back and push the button to deliver the shock. The machine will then check to see if the shock worked and guide you from there. If no shock is indicated, continue CPR until EMS arrives and can take over.

AEDs are a huge advance in our ability to help people with cardiac arrest. Getting someone’s heartbeat back sooner, before the ambulance even arrives, can make a world of difference! Many workplaces, community centers, and schools now have AEDs. Find out where yours are located and, if you don’t have one, ask for one to be installed. Then make sure you know how to use it.

If a teen or adult suddenly collapses, they may be having a cardiac arrest. If they have no pulse or heartbeat, take action:

1.) Call 911
2.) Get the AED
3.) Perform CPR

Stay safe. Stay well.

Those Nerdy Girls


Red Cross CPR Class Info

AHA Video on Hands-Only CPR

AHA Video on how to use AED

American Heart Association (AHA) CPR training website

Difference between cardiac arrest and heart attack

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