Guest Post by:

Kathleen Choate, ATC
Athletic Trainer
MUSC Health Sports Medicine

If you found a loved one in cardiac arrest, what would you do? Sure, you know to call 911, but what do you do until EMS arrives? In these scenarios, every second counts. With every minute of no heart beat and no CPR, the chance of survival plummets. Action on your part greatly increases the chances of survival.

Often times, people who give CPR outside of the hospital do not have a medical background, and are considered laypeople. Laypeople are often teachers, coaches, and childcare providers who obtain CPR certification for their jobs.

In a perfect world, every able-bodied person would know CPR and be mentally prepared to use it. It’s important to know that delaying CPR by even a minute greatly reduces the chance of survival. The sooner you can recognize the need for CPR and start effective compressions, the greater chance the victim has to survive. If your loved one needs help at home, this means that YOU are their greatest chance of survival. This is where we are the least prepared and even unwilling to take the necessary action to save our loved one's life. Unfortunately, individuals are only 15.5 percent likely to give CPR to someone they know. (Casper, MD, Murphy, EMT-P, Weinstein, EMT-P, & Brinsfield, MD, MPH, 2003)

There are many reasons that could account for a layperson's unwillingness to initiate CPR — most of which are emotional or psychological in nature. Some reasons people don't initiate CPR are due to panic, fear of performing CPR incorrectly, fear of causing harm, fear of litigation, and fear of contracting a disease. (Coons & Guy, 2009)

With all this being said, I implore you to do two things. First, get certified in CPR and second, do some soul-searching about what might prevent you from performing CPR. This is especially important if you are alone and the victim is a loved one. Bring these concerns with you to class to discuss with the instructor, and mentally prepare yourself for these worst-case scenarios in advance.

The following are reputable sites where you can search for classes near you:

American Heart Association

American Red Cross

Works Cited:

Casper, MD, K., Murphy, EMT-P, G., Weinstein, EMT-P, C., & Brinsfield, MD, MPH, K. (2003). A Comparison of Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation Rates of Strangers Versus Known Bystanders. Prehospital Emergency Care, 299-302. doi:10.1080/10903120390936455

Coons, S. J., & Guy, M. C. (2009). Performing Bystander CPR for Sudden Cardiac Arrest: Behavioral Intentions Among the General Adult Population in Arizona. Resuscitation, 334-340.