Wednesday, October 20, 2010

You never think you'll have to do CPR, until you have to do it

I decided to work from home because I'd been suffering from a cold. At about 1030 I popped out of the house to buy a coffee from a local coffee shop; it's very cold in London today and a bucket of warm coffee sounded good. I never got the coffee because life threw something random at me.

To get to the coffee shop I passed down a little alleyway close to my home, and there lying at the end of the alley was an old man. At first I thought it might be a drunk, but as I got closer I saw a man in his 70s seemingly trying to get up. I bent down and offered to help him. He seemed like he didn't want me to bother him, but something bad struck me at once. His lips were blue.

I talked to him briefly and he told me he felt very tired. He didn't seem to want to get up. I decided to call 999 and get an ambulance.

I went back to the man and knelt down beside him waiting for the ambulance. Suddenly he stopped. He stopped breathing and moving. I looked for a pulse in his wrist and then in his neck. Nothing. I immediately called back 999 (they had asked me to do so in this eventuality). The call log on my phone tells me that just five minutes had elapsed between calls. They directed me to put him on his back, head back and start CPR. I have to say that the operator was great: clear instructions.

I'm the sort of person who's done the Red Cross First Aid course twice and so I knew what to do and was almost immediately compressing his chest to the rhythm of the Bee Gees' Staying Alive with the phone operator counting along with me. No, I'm not being funny. The rhythm of that song is ideal for CPR.

I was 100 compressions into the CPR when the ambulance service arrived and took over. They worked on him in the alleyway and eventually put him in the ambulance and took him to the hospital. Between my first call and the arrival of the ambulance nine minutes elapsed. Thanks, NHS!

I don't know if he survived. It's not my place ask.

But I will ask you, dear reader, this: go take a course on first aid. It won't take long and you'll carry that knowledge around in your head until the day when life throws you something random.

Update: The London Ambulance Service were kind enough to let me know (without revealing any personal information about the man) that he survived. He was revived by the ambulance crew and his heart was beating again by the time they made it to hospital.

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7 Comments:

Blogger PaulH said...

Wow!

Coincidentally, new CPR guidelines are in the works:
"New guidelines drop the 'P' from CPR"
http://www.reutershealth.com/archive/2010/10/18/eline/links/20101018elin006.html

I guess I should check it out for when/if I need to use it.

7:19 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

Good for you John. Although I've spent many years in the emergency services and had to perform CPR 'on the job', I've been thrown into the same situation as you where a random person needed my skills...and it was a totally different feeling knowing I was the only one who could help. Not many people these days would even stop to assist, let alone jump in and do what was needed. Well done.

10:04 PM  
Blogger Andy said...

Why do you feel it's not your place to ask? You'll wonder about it for the rest of your life.

10:06 PM  
Blogger jimjim said...

Nice one John, I think the majority of people would prefer to just walk on by presuming he was a drunk, thank Darwin you were there!

@Andy - In the UK patients have the right to anonymity and are protected by law, the guy could track down John but not the other way round.

11:42 AM  
Blogger jimjim said...

Nice one John, I think the majority of people would prefer to just walk on by presuming he was a drunk, thank Darwin you were there!

@Andy - In the UK patients have the right to anonymity and are protected by law, the guy could track down John but not the other way round.

11:44 AM  
Blogger John Graham-Cumming said...

Even if he didn't have a right to anonymity, I still wouldn't feel it was my place to ask. I did what I could to help someone who was in need and I feel terribly sorry for the poor man to have found himself in that situation.

He and his family don't need me nosing into his business. Of course, I would like to know if he survived, primarily because if he did not I could at least reassure his family that he was not alone when he passed and that he was not suffering. He simply left.

11:49 AM  
OpenID rpg said...

Bloody hell. Good show!

Great to meet you last night, by the way.

8:24 AM  

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