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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If you enjoyed this blog post, you might enjoy my travel book for people interested in science and technology: The Geek Atlas. Signed copies of The Geek Atlas are available.

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