January 22nd, 2012

See this Ad

Posted in The Job - Experience by 200

I guess most readers will have seen the recent ad from the British Heart Foundation featuring ex-footballer and actor Vinnie Jones demonstrating how to do ‘hands-only’ CPR?

It seems that people have been dying because people who may have been able to keep them alive until paramedics arrived were reticent to do mouth-to-mouth, either because they didn’t really know what to do or they didn’t like the thought of giving mouth-to-mouth to someone they weren’t in the process of shagging.

I’m glad they have come up with this angle which may encourage more people to give CPR, especially in the light of  one experience I had.

One day I was at home when one of my neighbours knocked on the door saying they were concerned for another neighbour who wasn’t responding. I climbed over the garden fence and saw her slumped in her chair in the living room. I banged on the window trying to attract her attention wondering whether she was asleep, collapsed or dead. I couldn’t be sure whether or not I saw some movement in one of her hands or whether I was imagining it.

I went round to the front of the house and got my neighbour to ring 999 whilst I broke in through the front door. When I found the lady in her chair, she was clearly dead, there was no pulse but she was still warm. She was in her late 70s or early 80s and I weighed up in my mind whether I should do CPR. I convinced myself that I hadn’t seen her move at all and I didn’t really know what to do though I had done it on that Annie dummy years ago.

I waited for the ambulance and the lady was eventually taken off to the mortuary.

I felt dreadfully guilty about this for ages after. I was one of those people who this current advert is targeting. After much soul searching I booked myself on a first-aid refresher and resolved that if ever the situation presented itself again, I would take positive action.

Some years later I was sitting just outside the town centre in my patrol car. It was a regular layby next to a dual carriageway where we could sit up for any unsuspecting transgressors of the traffic laws.

My attention was grabbed by someone banging on my passenger window who told me that a man had collapsed on the path not 100 yards away. I quickly drove round to see a small crown gathered around a male who was lying on the pavement.

A man in his sixties had collapsed as he was walking back from town. I couldn’t find any pulse so I put him onto his back and took a deep breath, tilting his head up and pinching his nose I blew into his mouth. I could hear gurgling in his throat of a liquid nature. As I pulled my mouth away from his the lungful of air I had just blown down his throat came back at me faster than I expected and vomit from his airways spurted into my mouth.


I was surrounded by people who were all staring at me waiting for action, nobody else was stepping forward, I was spitting someone else’s vomit onto the pavement. I wanted to say, ‘bollocks, sorry folks, he’s dead’ and leave it at that. If I hadn;t had an audience, perhaps I might have done just that and waited for the ambo crew to try their magic.

I tipped him on his side and fingered around his throat trying to remove any debris by a combination of shaking his head and the same sort of action you have when trying to remove jelly from a bowl with your fingers.

I didn’t have one of those resuci-aids mouth masks that you can use to give you some protection so I used the next best thing. I took out my hanky, placed it over his mouth and tried again. The chest compressions seemed to dislodge more vomit and soon I was into a rythym. A couple of breaths and some chest compressions.

I have no idea how long I was doing it for. It was probably only a few minutes but it seemed like hours and boy was I knackered by the the time the ambo crew got there.

There was no coughing and spluttering from the guy followed by him sitting up, asking where he was and then wandering off home to read his paper. No Eureka moment, he was still dead when the ambo crew arrived.

They shocked him a couple of times and loaded him on board. One of the crew said they had gotten some signs of life so were going to work on him before blue lighting it to the hospital. They must have worked on him for a good 30 to 40 minutes. In all my time in the job I’ve never seen an ambo crew trying to revive someone for longer.

They got him going again and we raced off to the local A&E.

The guy died the following day.

The first thing I did when I got back to the nick was get one of those little resuci-aids mouth masks which I carried on my belt at all times.

I had occasion to use it once more before I came off the streets. How lucky was I, most officers never have to try and revive anyone, I’ve done it three times.

Maybe if I’d seen the Vinny Jones ad I’d have done it four times.

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  1. Stonehead says:

    I was a first aider for many years and used CPR seven times. Four didn’t make it, two did and I don’t know about one.

    The last one was outside a Japanese restaurant behind Waterloo station. A gentleman in his 60s keeled over outside the restaurant so I was able to check him over and start CPR very fast. I was pounding away when, just as the ambulance arrived, his heart restarted. He convulsed, started gasping and frightened the **** out of me. The paramedic told me ‘nice one’, I handed over and went back to my office where my boss wanted to know why my mind was elsewhere.

    The worst was on a tube going in to Kennington Station. I realised a bloke, mid-40s, suit, was in trouble as he went grey, started sweating profusely and grabbed his chest. He went down, but the tube was packed and no one wanted to make space. People even tried to stop me pulling the emergency lever because they didn’t want to be held up. He was a vomiter, which actually proved quite useful as it cleared a space around him. Eventually, a member of the station staff came and helped with the CPR but we didn’t succeed. Nor did the paramedics when they arrived. This time it was my then girlfriend who wanted to know why I was distracted when I got home (just down the road from station).

    It’s always a strange experience. Or at least it is for me.

    January 22nd, 2012 at 23:37

  2. Rufus says:

    I’ve never had to use it, but I got trained about 20 years ago, back when I had enthusiasm rather than sense.

    My first attempt on resusci-annie (sp?) turned into a bit of a disaster, the instructor was about half my size so she had to use pretty much her entire upper body weight to do chest compressions.

    Seeing how she’d done it, I (18 stone prop-forward) did exactly the same. I’m very glad that it wasn’t a proper casualty as judging by the way the heel of my hand bounced off of the floor I’d have done enough damage to kill them in my own right.

    January 23rd, 2012 at 10:02

  3. dickiebo says:

    A Gent out walking with his wife collapsed outside the BBC Theatre in Shepherd’s Bush one Sunday pm. I came upon them as I was walking my beat. I could see that he had died (I THOUGHT!) and sent a passer-by off to find a phone to call an ambo. He did die, and I have felt guilty to this day that I did not at least try to do something constructive for him.
    You did well.

    January 23rd, 2012 at 13:01

  4. Fee says:

    Sometimes, dead is dead. I’ve only had to try it once, for the longest 7 minutes of my life, and the paramedics had no more success than I had. I felt awful, despite everyone (including the man’s wife) telling me I’d done as much as anyone could.

    My most spectacular first aid success was a guy choking in the canteen, when one good smack to the back dislodged a bit of bacon. I was really hoping it would work because he was to big for me to get my arms around!

    January 23rd, 2012 at 15:29

  5. Hibbo says:

    Good for you 200, that you but yourself forward for the training and have used it.

    I’m a workplace first-aider, but have fortunately never had to perform CPR. Worryingly however, at the last refresher I did, then instructor told us it was not wise to attempt first aid on a stranger in the street owing the the risk of action from the police and parasitic lawyers if your casualty didn’t make it. A sad reflection on the modern world.

    January 23rd, 2012 at 16:28

  6. Clumsybob says:

    When working as a PCSO before joining as a PC I came across a crowd where a elderly male had collapsed. He was being tended by two women, one who said she was a student nurse and the other a qualified first aider. I was in shock and believing them to be more qualified that me left them to it. They said they felt a faint pulse so just sat there with him holding his hand. He looked terrible, purple. The paramedics arrived and scooped him up into the back of the ambulance. He died.
    I still think about the incident to this day standing there thinking CPR should be carried out. I didn’t have the confidence then to speak out but I would now without hesitation.
    I later found out from my wife who was a nurse that most nurses don’t have basic first aid training. Food for thought. Well done 200 I hope I can perform when the situation arises again.

    January 23rd, 2012 at 18:22

  7. Tony F says:

    Good try 200. Many, to many, don’t know what to do, and sadly don’t want to.

    January 24th, 2012 at 16:29

  8. Stonehead says:

    Rufus, it’s quite likely that CPR done correctly will crack ribs and/or the sternum. CPR is brutal—it has to be to be effective given that you have to compress downwards to a third of the depth of the chest.

    Sometimes the ribs completely break away from the sternum. You can feel them popping under your hands, but it’s better to achieve full compressions and crack ribs to give a person a shot at life than do minimal compressions and see them stay dead. If you do CPR on an older person (say over 65-70) it’s almost inevitable that ribs will break—their cartilage is less pliable and their bones more brittle.

    If I keeled over, I’d rather an 18-stone prop forward gave me CPR than an eight-stone librarian! (Having said that, I’d prefer the librarian over nobody.)

    January 27th, 2012 at 12:36

  9. Kazbop says:

    @Hibbo – what your first aid trainer told you is absolute rubbish, if you attempt to help someone who collapses in the street with good intentions, there is NO way you will have any legal issues afterwards, there has never been any such legal action in this country.

    As for hands only CPR, there is a lot of evidence now that it is actually more effective. Stopping compressions to do rescue breaths loses the blood pressure that the compressions produced, making it less likely that the resuscitation will be successful.

    If I came across a cardiac arrest off duty, I would do compression only CPR till the ambo arrived…

    South East…

    February 22nd, 2012 at 09:50

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