“BEEP, BEEP, BEEP, BEEP” “CODE BLUE EMERGENCY ROOM”.
I’ve got to be honest, after 18 years as a Respiratory Therapist at a community hospital I’ve never liked the ear piercing beep of a CODE BLUE page. I immediately grab the phone to get an update on what to expect as I race to the Emergency Room to assist with the incoming cardiac arrest.
Once they arrive the patient becomes ours to take over, and a highly co-ordinated team of doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists launch into action to save a life.
“53 year old male, found at home not breathing in bed by wife and kids. CPR being performed by EMS, no pulse.”
The thought often goes through my mind... could this have been prevented? I hope the family started CPR. Did they know the symptoms to look for?” We gear up with PPE and prepare to take over. We approach the woman to see how we can help.
MD: “Ma’am can you tell us what happened?”
“Well, he’s been complaining about chest pain for a few days, pain in his shoulder and frequent stomach aches. He said he was ok, just wanted tea and to take a nap”
MD: “Has he complained about this before?”
W: "Yes, a few times, he’s been to the doctor and had tests. He’s also on medication.”
W: “Sorry, he has so many doctors, I can’t remember their names. I have no idea what medication he is on...we got so scared when this happened we forgot to grab his medication on the way out the door.”
MD: “No problem, we understand. When you found him not breathing were you able to start CPR?”
W: “No...I don’t know how...should I know? I thought only doctors did that.”
Conversations like these are not uncommon in the ER - families unaware of how to recognize symptoms of an impending cardiac arrest, and the lack of knowledge of how to confidently perform CPR to save the life of a family member.
You do not need to be certified to perform or learn CPR. You do not need to be a healthcare professional to save a life. You do not need to be scared. You do need to seek out the knowledge to recognize symptoms of a cardiac arrest, choking, or any other life threatening event and follow a simple step by step plan to intervene with confidence. You do need to keep medical records, the names of doctors, test results and the names of medications.
The first few minutes of a cardiac event are the most critical; these are the moments where you can make a difference. Having all of the information on past medical history and allowing medications to be given and interventions to be performed can be life saving.
Get CPR educated, it could be the emergency tip you need that could save a life.
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