The Quickest 60 Seconds of My Life
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional nor am I a certified CPR trainer. The information used below is from my current CPR certification and is credited to The American Heart Association.
Imagine this: it's 2018 and Blondie (oh yes, "One Way or Another" Blondie), is performing a concert in your city. She's 73 but it's a free concert so you and your friends decide to go and have a fun night out on the town. As you are walking into the crowd of people, you spot a man standing on the ledge of a sidewalk holding onto a fence but don't think much of it. A few moments into the show, you realize that same man has collapsed.
This was the start of my evening a couple of weekends ago. The man that I had seen hanging on the fence seemed to be coherent and spending the evening with his friends and family - let's say his name was Nick. Nick had collapsed right next to us and my friend standing next to me heard his head and body hit the ground. He told me that it was one of the loudest sounds that he had ever heard and that he could feel the ground move when Nick fell. Ironically, I was standing on the other side of my friend and I did not hear him fall at all. The upcoming moments flashed as the quickest moments I have ever experienced.
I felt myself standing in shock as I assessed the situation. To my surprise, my friend and I were the only two people around who were trained in CPR. My friend tried to find Nick's pulse as his father tried to attempt chest compressions which he had not been trained to do. I sat down and felt for Nick's pulse: nothing. As we cleared everyone away from Nick and advised a policeman near to call 911, I started to complete chest compressions on him. It was so surreal how all of the training I had suddenly returned. If you have ever done CPR training, you know that the dummy's chest clicks each time you do a chest compression; Nick's chest felt exactly like this. Luckily, it only took 10 chest compressions until Nick was gasping for air again. As he woke up he looked around and was dazed and confused, but was able to speak to the paramedics clearly and coherently once they arrived.
Later on as I was reminiscing about the rush I felt from saving a person's life, it hit me: how would I be feeling if the outcome had been the opposite? What if this man had not woken up so quickly or even at all? These are moments that I will undoubted face in my future career, but it was shocking to fully grasp the wide range of possibilities of situations like this.
Below I have attached a short video from The American Heart Association that describes how to administer hands-only CPR. Even without a full training I believe that having the slightest knowledge about what to do in a situation like this could save someone's life. The steps are simple: 1) Call 911. 2) Start chest compressions - hard and fast in the center of the chest. Press deep and and consistently to the beat of "Stayin' Alive."
Life is precious and fragile, just minutes without oxygen can have such an impact on a life. Fortunately, Nick was awake and breathing again shortly after he fainted, but for some this does not happen so quickly. After four minutes without oxygen the brain begins to succumb to irreversible brain damage, and after only six minutes a person may be diagnosed as brain dead. However, if chest compressions are administered and the heart is still circulating blood throughout the body, the brain will continue to receive oxygen even if the person is unconscious. This is why it is so important to continue CPR until paramedics arrive.
As thrilling as the experience was, it turned into an immense lesson for me. After Nick had woken up, we learned that he had not been drinking, yet everyone around him assumed that he had been and it tremendously affected the help that he received. We still are not sure what the cause of Nick's collapse was as the paramedics took him away immediately once they arrived. But no matter what the cause was, there should have been a sense of urgency to help him. The stigma around concerts and drinking caused most bystanders around Nick to view him as a drunk who was a nuisance and burden - including the law enforcement present.
I have been contemplating how I wanted to address this experience as it really stuck with me and I feel there were so many lessons to be learned from it; however, this is not my usual brainiac blog post. My challenge for you this week is about altering the way you view the world around you. It is so important to realize that everyone has a story and I challenge you to test your thoughts against the stigmas in society. Whether you are driving down the highway and someone cuts you off or someone that you think has been drinking faints on you at your next concert, be different. Change the negative view and attitude that you have to think about what could be going on in someone else's life and if nothing else: this will create less stress in your life by thinking about situations in a lighter way. Whether it is a loved one or a stranger sitting nearby, you never know the impact that your knowledge, urgency, and attitude will do to help a person's life.