A question that everyone who has done CPR has asked themselves is: "Was there anything else I could have done?"
Recently, I took care of a man who suffered a cardiac arrest. His friend immediately started CPR, buying time before paramedics arrived. They continued resuscitation while taking him to the emergency department, but the patient subsequently died. This friend of the patient, a hero in my eyes, wondered what he might have done differently.
The short answer is that despite the poor outcome, he did everything right. Good CPR makes a difference, but it's a small one. CPR increases the survival rate in cardiac arrest by about 4 per cent. Not much, unless you are in that lucky 4 per cent, and then it would mean the world to you.
On TV medical dramas an average of 70 per cent of cardiac arrest victims survive. It's easy to forget that in real life that number is more like 7 per cent.
What matters most is how long it takes to get a defibrillator on the patient's chest. The brain has only about six minutes before it starts to die from a lack of blood flow. Hopefully, CPR is started immediately upon collapse, circulating oxygen to the brain, buying it a few more precious minutes.
Hopefully in those few minutes an automated external defibrillator (AED) can be located and applied. And hopefully the patient is one of the 25 per cent that have a heart rhythm capable of being successfully shocked.
Takehome message: learn CPR, don't be afraid to use it when necessary and, most importantly, know where your community defibrillators are located.
And to every one of you who has had the courage and poise to perform CPR on another human in distress, my hat goes off to you.