Two civilians stepped in to perform chest compressions after a man suffered a cardiac arrest in a Saanich park on Jan. 19. In the wake, B.C. Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) commended their swift action while emphasizing hands-only CPR is far more effective than mouth-to-mouth and safer during the pandemic.
According to BCEHS, the 911 call came in at 11:45 a.m. for a man in cardiac arrest in the Mount Douglas Park restrooms. Two paramedic crews and the Saanich Fire Department attended and the patient was taken to the hospital in serious condition.
Leon Baranowski, BCEHS paramedic practice leader, said everyone is a link in the chain of survival and can play a role in saving the life of a patient in cardiac arrest – even during the pandemic. Bystanders who feel comfortable stepping in are encouraged to perform chest compressions.
Research has shown that hands-only CPR is “more efficient in saving a life” and the campaign to spread awareness about the change in best practice pre-dates COVID-19, he explained. Mouth-to-mouth “isn’t warranted” and is no longer recommended but the old messaging and portrayals in TV shows make people feel they need to do it.
“It looks more heroic but it’s not” and there’s still a lot to be done to inform the public about the change, Baranowski said.
Mouth-to-mouth was also a barrier to early intervention because bystanders weren’t comfortable putting their mouth on a stranger. However, he said there is less resistance from the public when it comes to chest compressions and a quick response is key because for every minute without CPR, a cardiac arrest patient’s chances of survival drop about 10 per cent.
The goal is to reinforce that proper CPR on the chest is all that’s needed – especially now that there is a risk of spreading COVID-19.
When assisting a patient in cardiac arrest during the pandemic, place a mask over their mouth or cover their face with something and then focus on starting chest compressions while calling 911. Baranowski recommends recruiting another bystander to make the call or using speakerphone so that the chest compressions don’t stop because keeping the blood pumping to the brain is essential.
Emergency medical call-takers will provide guidance for bystanders who are unsure what to do and can set a pace for chest compressions. A basic CPR training course can also “reduce fumbling” and help civilians feel more confident stepping in.
Some 45,000 Canadians are hospitalized for a cardiac arrest every year and their survival rate can go up 75 per cent with early intervention and the use of an automated external defibrillator (AED), Baranowski said. AEDs can often be found at libraries, gyms and grocery stores and are automated to guide the user through the process.
He added that those who are confident in their ability to perform CPR can download the PulsePoint app and sign up to receive alerts when someone in a public space less than 400 metres away is in cardiac arrest. The app also shows where the nearest AED is located.