June 19, 2006

Saving a Life

Outside of the hospital, there are only a few things a trained health professional can do to save a life. For example, someone could develop complications on an airplane. Lacking access to meds, previous medical history, clinical consults, a sterile/private environment and personal protective equipment makes even an ER doc nervous... rounding at 37000 feet. The only thing that distinguishes him and any other passenger on the plane is his mind -- his training, his experience at dealing with crises, his cool confidence and quick wits.

Some of us might have taken First Aid in Boy Scouts or as a part of a volunteer training program. It does not take much to MacGyver up a splint or sling for a broken limb; nor does it require much experience to learn three ways to stem blood flow. Highlight for hints: direct pressure, pressure points and tourniquet (this last one is a last resort!)


I took a Basic Life Support (BLS) class today. It covered two important skills for saving a life: dislodging a foreign object with the Heimlich maneuver and cardiopulmonary resucitation. The criteria for CPR have been changed and I think that it is simpler. This will make it easier to remember and administrate in a time of need. Hopefully, it will also encourage more people to take a class!

The Bee Gees song "Stayin' Alive" conveniently provides the rhythm of 100 compressions/minute. Knowing that cycles of 30 compressions to 2 rescue breaths are what you need for an adult, with the exception of a two-person rescue on a child (in which case you need 15:2) and you've got the majority of the 4-hour long BLS class down pat.

I had a sobering thought as I knelt in front of the dummy and provided mouth-to-mask breathing for the first time. This is my responsibility. I was training myself to become a lifesaver... and this technique would become more than "something to know just in case." I would be morally obligated to provide my services to someone in need! Some might even call me a hero for the stuff I'm learning right now! Whoa.


The Mayo Clinic has a Guide to First Aid if you are interested in learning more about what YOU can do to save a life, if the situation ever arises.


  1. my friend had to use the heimlich maneuver on her daughter just two weeks ago!!! her daughter choked on hamburger and couldn't breathe and started turning blue and she (a nurse practitioner) used her BLS skills and saved her daughter's life!

  2. It's always been said that hamburgers are bad for you! Arteries aren't the only things they can clog. ;-)