Sunday, December 14, 2014

CPR: For the faint of heart

Posted By on Sun, Dec 14, 2014 at 8:30 AM

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When do you know if a baby needs CPR? Tinker Simmons, instructor at Springs CPR Training for the past ten years, can count them off on her fingers.

“Blue lips or fingernails, high-pitched noise, squeaking sounds or flailing arms,” she says. “If an infant does not respond when you tap the bottom of their foot and shout their name, check to see if there are any signs of breathing.”

Like all first aid skills, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is something wise to learn and hope never to use. According to the American Heart Association, 88 percent of cardiac arrests happen at home, to a loved one, but nearly 70 percent of Americans say they would feel helpless if they were called upon to save the life of their trembling relative. The secret to a long life is to befriend someone who is well trained in CPR, because like most lifesaving first aid procedures, it is smart not to rely on self-administration. Our baby has made no friends yet, so my wife and I need to take a course.

I’ve used CPR just once in my life. It was in high school, and a crowd had gathered around to watch. CPR is an up-close, hands-on procedure. I am a man who likes his space. In this case, pimple-faced and sweating, I was lucky it was only a class and the body that lay open-mouthed before me was just a dummy.

CPR certification is a license to revive the dead, or save the dying. Even for a non-certified person the difference between doing something and doing nothing could be a life saved. It’s difficult to resist knowing you possess such power. I offer mouth-to-mouth services to my wife any time I detect an oncoming emergency: when she missteps, or is out of breath. Or when she coughs and there is no glass of water available to clear her throat with. I may be out of practice anyway.

I’ve never witnessed CPR administered live, nor have I been near a situation where someone came close to needing it. A friend of mine choked in a busy restaurant once but I decided my lifesaving talents were unnecessary. He had a full glass of water in front of him and the food had just arrived. He ended up needing the Heimlich maneuver anyway.

Now, as a parent of a four-month old baby who explores the objects around him by their flavors, CPR is on my mind again. He has not yet mastered his own self-battering hands, much less figured out what will and will not hurt him. At some point I expect he might break a large piece of something off and try to force it down his tiny air pipe when I’m not looking. We sit at home and stare at each other, me waiting for him to make a move and him waiting for an unsupervised moment.

Sudden infant deaths (SIDS) are unpreventable, but parents can greatly cut the risks. SIDS is mostly associated with sleeping. Some incidents are not life threatening, but are advisably avoidable. For example, rotating the baby’s head periodically, like a ripening homegrown pumpkin, will avoid “flat head”— which is an actual medical term — named apparently after a quick glance at the symptoms, along with “moon face” and “buffalo hump”.

New sleep guidelines have reduced SIDS over the past twenty years, during which parents have removed all items from the infant cribs, including bumpers, stuffed animals, and blankets. Babies now sleep on their backs, and co-sleeping with an infant – a once common practice – has been deemed dangerous, as the mother, tossing in troubled sleep, can roll to the central crater of a well-worn mattress, where baby is napping peacefully.

When giving CPR to an infant, you do not want to use your palms and body weight to perform the chest compressions.
“Use two fingers and push a depth of about one and a half inches,” Simmons says. “Thirty compressions to two breaths.”
You don’t want to inflate the baby when administering breaths, either. Tiny lungs can only hold short puffs of air, despite the way they sound at full volume.

“There is some misconception that breaths are not needed in the CPR sequence,” Simmons says. “While compression-only CPR is effective, the breaths are still preferred, especially for children.”

In any case, it’s important to call 911 before attempting CPR, especially if you’re untrained and rolling up your sleeves to begin wailing away on a loved one. When the medics arrive, it might be you that they may have to save your family member from.

Pico spent his childhood years in the Springs. Now, as a father, he's seeing the city (and life) in a different light. Follow him on twitter at @DavidXPico.

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