Cardiac arrest is one of the ultimate emergencies that people sometimes face. The heart stops sending blood to the body and brain, either because it is beating too fast and too erratically, or because it has stopped beating altogether. Oxygen-starved brain cells start to die. Death occurs in minutes — unless a bystander takes matters into his or her hands and starts cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

When a person is in need of the chest compressions they are in what is called “cardiac arrest.”

The meaning of cardiac arrest is: The sudden stop of the heartbeat and cardiac function resulting in the loss of blood circulation in the body.

You’ve probably heard of people having a heart attack. When people suffer a heart attack they may or may not end up in cardiac arrest.  But the real danger is that they do.

Why is cardiac arrest bad? 

Your blood carries oxygen throughout your body. It goes from the heart to the lungs, through the body, and back again. During cardiac arrest, the heart stops so blood stops flowing. If the blood can’t flow to the lungs to give them oxygen, it can’t bring back oxygen to the rest of your body. When you perform CPR on a person in cardiac arrest, you are manually restoring blood circulation and oxygen. This is critical! By performing CPR, you are literally supplying the oxygen to the brain to keep someone’s brain functioning until paramedics can arrive and try to get the heart working again.

Why does CPR work? 

Pressing down on the chest keeps the blood flowing to the lungs, brain
and body.

Mouth-to-mouth also referred to as artificial respiration (fake breathing), puts much-needed oxygen into the lungs. Do not worry about carbon dioxide that you may be breathing out. You actually breathe out about 20% oxygen, which, for the person lacking any oxygen, is better than none.

Remember, mouth-to-mouth is no longer required but would be a nice thing to help put some needed oxygen into the lungs.

How to perform CPR correctly 

In the event of someone suffering from cardiac arrest, the first thing to do is call 10177. This number can be used in the case of a medical emergency and can be called in conjunction with both the fire and police department respectively, depending on whether or not there are casualties.

The procedure to perform chest compressions is:

  • Kneel by the side of the victim
  • Place the heel of one hand in the center of the victim’s chest (the lower half of the sternum, or breastbone)
  • Now place the heel of your other hand on top of the first. Interlock your fingers together
  • Keep your elbows straight and bring your body weight over your hands to make it easier to press down vertically
  • Press down firmly and quickly to achieve a downwards movement of 4 to 5cm, then relax and repeat the compression.

After each compression, release all the pressure on the chest without losing contact between the hands and the sternum. Aim for a rate of compression of about 100 per minute. You can help your timing and counting by saying out loud ‘one and two and three and four…’.