No one knows when it strikes. Cardiac arrest comes like a thief in the night, temporarily arresting heartbeat and possibly causing death.
However, heartbeats can be restored and deaths prevented if every Nigerian can perform a life-saving approach of chest compressions called cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) before the victim is moved to the hospital for emergency medical treatment.
Surviving cardiac arrest without hospital treatment is rare but the chances of saving many lives through CPR is greater compared to doing nothing while the person remains unconscious and perhaps transits to the great beyond.
Cardiac arrest, according to studies, is a condition in which the heart’s pumping function suddenly stops due to loss of blood flow resulting from the failure of the heart to pump effectively.
“CPR can keep oxygen-rich blood flowing to the brain and other organs until emergency medical treatment can restore a normal heart rhythm. When the heart stops, your body no longer gets oxygen-rich blood. The lack of oxygen-rich blood can cause brain damage in only a few minutes,” John Asekhame, a consultant cardiologist, said.
Asekhame said CPR, which is a sequence of chest compressions, is an emergency intervention for someone that has had a cardiac arrest in which there is an interruption in the electrical conduction of the heart or the heart has stopped working.
When untrained bystanders find themselves where a person collapses, he said the first thing to do is to call the name of the victim.
“If he or she doesn’t respond, then go ahead to check for a pulse and one of the large vessels in the neck. If you can’t feel a pulse, then you start the chest compressions.
“Put your hands together and use the heel of your palm to massage the chest. So, these chest compressions help the heart to continue to beat so that blood goes to the brain until proper resuscitation come up,” Asekhame said.
The medical expert, therefore, encouraged institutions to train their staff to carry out resuscitation, noting that once the heart stops and if the brain doesn’t get blood for the next few seconds, then the person may not survive.
“The challenge we have in Nigeria is that when somebody collapses, we pour water and immediately start praying, but if someone is knowledgeable and he or she is able to know that the person is not breathing or not having a pulse and he is able to start the CPR, then that will be fine,” he said.
According to Asekhame, this is something that needs training because there is a specific number of times to massage. Currently, there are trainings all over the country to teach people how to go about it.
Apart from CPR, he said there are other devices like Automated External Defibrillator (AED) that can be used to give shock to restore heartbeats.