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 Ă‚Â 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 offĂ‚Â homeĂ‚Â 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.