Paramedic says it is crucial to urgently assist a patient with cardiac arrest

Heart surgeon Roland Hetzer. Picture: Jan Bauer/AP

Heart surgeon Roland Hetzer. Picture: Jan Bauer/AP

Published Sep 22, 2022


Durban — According to ER24 paramedics, the chances of a person in cardiac arrest surviving decrease by 10% for every minute he or she does not receive CPR.

ER24 Southern Cape branch manager Tao Carstens said waiting too long to start CPR could significantly decrease the odds of that person surviving. Furthermore, she said it was important for bystanders to give pre-hospital emergency assistance to someone going through cardiac arrest as soon as possible, before paramedics got there.

She said a cardiac arrest – including heart disease, stroke, electrocution, drowning, and suffocation – could occur when a patient had a seizure and stopped breathing.

Moreover, she said patients experiencing cardiac arrest were usually unresponsive, showed no signs of a pulse, and were not breathing.

“Always call ER24 on 084 124 for immediate assistance in the event of cardiac arrest. Then lie the person on his or her back, feel for a pulse, and start CPR immediately. The staff at the ER24 contact centre will guide you telephonically – and if you’re in a public place that has a portable automated external defibrillator on hand, they’ll get security to bring the AED. Remember, every second counts,” said Tao.

She further advised bystanders to start telephonically assisted CPR in order to buy time before paramedics got there.

Once paramedics arrived, a number of things would happen simultaneously. First, a paramedic would take over CPR and chest compressions.

“We then attach an AED, which can check a person's heart rhythm and deliver an electric shock to restore a normal heartbeat,” she said.

An AED was most effective if used within five minutes of the person collapsing. Most offices, schools, shopping centres, airports and other public places should have one.

Tao said that, once the AED was attached, it indicated whether the person had a shockable or non-shockable heart rhythm. Ventricular tachycardia and ventricular fibrillation were both shockable rhythms. The two non-shockable rhythms were pulseless electrical activity and asystole.

She added that, if the AED showed the rhythm was non-shockable, paramedics would continue with CPR. At the same time, someone would be preparing an intravenous line, so they could administer medication through the drip to restart the heart.

Adrenaline was the most common chemical jump-start paramedics used to get the heart to beat on its own. Tao added that, if the AED showed the patient had a shockable rhythm, they would use the AED before administering a membrane stabiliser to get the heart beating on its own again.

She said patients should also receive 100% medical oxygen, because if the brain was without oxygen for too long, brain death would occur.

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