Find out how to save someone's life before the help arrives
How To Save A Life
Emergencies occur everyday, and there’s no telling where or when you might be in a position to save a life. Knowledge about the human body, and basic first aid, in these circumstances can make the difference between life and death.
The chances of saving a person's life when it's in danger depend on 1) recognizing the emergency, and 2) taking swift and directed action. This column covers how to save someone’s life starting with the types of emergencies that could arise, and steps to take in each scenario. They say, after all, proper preparation prevents poor performance.
When it comes to how to save someone’s life, CPR is crucial. First developed in 1960 by Drs. Kouwenhoven, Safar, and Jude in trials at John Hopkins, CPR eventually began to be widely used by the public. It’s a little known fact that you technically don’t need formal training in order to do CPR’s and save a life.
When does it become necessary to use CPR? How can you use CPR to save someone’s life? Cardiac arrest in public looks most often like someone collapsing, or who suddenly becomes unresponsive. Granted, not all cases of unconsciousness are cardiac arrest. Many different root factors can cause episodes of sudden unconsciousness: such as not having eaten enough, panic attacks, or seeing blood. But in more serious cases, this may happen because the heart is weak, and not pumping enough blood to the brain.
Normally your heart pumps about 2,000 gallons of blood through your body every day. More than 15 percent of this goes to the brain, one of the most energy consuming organs. In normal circumstances, the human body can only survive minutes without oxygen. Compressions in CPR can save lives by keeping blood flowing through the body, without the help of the heart (which has stopped during cardiac arrest.) It prolongs the amount of time the body can survive before help arrives, or the heart is restarted.
While on average the chances of survival of patients with cardiac arrest are 1 in 10, CPR increases these odds. If CPR is performed within minutes of the cardiac arrest, the person’s odds of surviving can double or triple. That means, your decision to act immediately to save a person’s life could make all the difference!
Compressions in CPR can save lives by keeping blood flowing through the body, without the help of the heart (which has stopped during cardiac arrest.) It prolongs the amount of time the body can survive before help arrives, or the heart is restarted.
Bleeding Or Hemorrhage
The average human adult has about 1.2 to 1.5 gallons (or 4 to 6 liters) of blood. If a person is losing blood rapidly, the blood pressure and heart rate stay the same up to losing 30 percent of the body’s blood. More than 40 percent blood loss almost inevitably leads to death.
If somebody has a wound, being able to stop the bleed as fast as possible is priority number one. If you don’t stop very heavy bleeding, the injured person could die in only a few minutes – much faster than it will take the paramedics to get there.
Remove any clothes or minor debris, but if there is a large or embedded object do NOT attempt to remove it. This could cause the person to bleed out faster.
Control severe bleeding
Bleeding to the extremities should be controlled with either direct pressure or tourniquet use above the site of bleeding. A tourniquet is any sort of bandage, or strap that can be used in order to apply pressure, and to stop the flow of blood. In a public place, where no medical equipment is on hand, this may be done with a belt, or fashioned out of cloth by ripping a shirt.
More about limiting blood flow
Press hard and directly over the site of bleeding, at a point closer to the torso. Arteries and blood vessels get bigger the closer they are to the vital organs. So if the puncture or wound is on an extremity, the higher up it is, the faster the wound will bleed. If possible, if you can raise the limb above the level of the heart, this will decrease blood flow, potentially saving the person’s life. Put a blanket or rug around the body, in order to prevent loss of body heat.
If you don’t stop very heavy bleeding, the injured person could die in only a few minutes – much faster than it will take the paramedics to get there.
Strokes occur when our brains are deprived of blood flow. Blood can stop flowing to your brain for various reasons – and also, actually, in different ways. The majority of the time it is the result of a blood clot.
Stroke recognition has become a big public health objective in recent years. The good news is, it is possible to prevent strokes and blood clots through diet, exercise, and positive lifestyle habits. Risk factors, such as high blood pressure or cholesterol, and diabetes, should be managed or minimized if at all possible.
There is an acronym used in the medical community, which can help you recognize when a stroke is happening. The acronym word is FAST:
Whenever a stroke happens, no matter what type it is, time is an essential factor. We say in medicine, time is tissue. In the case of a stroke, we’re talking about the brain. When a stroke happens, and the brain no longer has freshly oxygenated blood flow, it has devastating consequences.
How extreme the consequences are depends on the amount of time that passes before blood returns to the brain tissue. Medicine can treat the most common type of stroke, but only 4.5 hours after symptom onset. There are also more complicated procedures capable of retrieving blood clots in the brain via wires, and other devices. But again, the window is narrow to save the person’s life.
The sooner a stroke victim receives medical help, the greater their chances of a close to full recovery.
When a stroke happens, and the brain no longer has freshly oxygenated blood flow, it has devastating consequences.
Seizure Or Sudden Unconsciousness
A major question that arises in emergency scenarios is how to treat an unconscious patient, especially if they have fallen down. The person’s position is of more importance than you may think. There is actually something called “the recovery position.”
Why should an unconscious or semi-conscious person be put in a certain position? Primarily it has to do with their breathing. Laying someone on their side after a seizure, trauma, or cardiac arrest helps patients breathe easier by clearing their airways.
Another major reason for this position is that when in distress, many patients are unable to control their saliva. If a person is completely unconscious, it’s possible to choke on spit or vomit. A significant number of seizure patients end up dying just for this reason. It is not always necessarily the seizure, or the cardiac arrest that causes death, but a complication.
To place someone in the recovery position, here are the steps you need to take:
Laying someone on their side after a seizure, trauma, or cardiac arrest helps patients breathe easier by clearing their airways.
At first you might not think of burns as a big topic for saving a life. First degree burns, the least severe, cause only pain, redness and swelling. Second degree burns also cause blistering, and can be called ‘partial thickness’ burns. A third degree burn however kills at least two layers of skin, turning skin black, brown, white or yellow, instead of red. This type of burn may even be numb due to damaged nerve endings. A fourth degree burn is life threatening and destroys a substantial amount of tissue.
Burns that can be managed at home are generally 1st and 2nd degree that do not involve the hands, feet, face, or genitals and covers a relatively small area like part of an arm or a leg.
For a major burn, most people know the rule to “stop, drop, and roll.” If you are in a situation where someone is on fire, to save their life, repeat this to them first. Other steps you should take:
Shock is another risk with severe burns – by shock, we’re talking about a real physical condition that limits the flow of blood and oxygen to vital organs, and is life threatening. Another risk is edema, where fluid flows to and becomes trapped in the tissues which have been burned. This can also deprive parts of the body of oxygen, leading potentially to lung, heart, brain or kidney damage. Infections like pneumonia or sepsis (where an infection moves through the bloodstream) can occur from burns.
Most people don’t think of dehydration as a life-threatening disease, but if not recognized and treated, the side effects can be extremely severe. From heatstroke, to seizures, to medical shock, kidney failure, and a coma, these are conditions you majorly want to avoid.
Infants or older folks are especially vulnerable to dehydration. Here are some ways you recognize it, and know when to take steps:
To rehydrate: Clearly the first approach to rehydrate is to drink water. But sometimes dehydration makes it difficult to keep liquid down. You might need something with electrolytes to rebalance your body’s fluids, which are contained not just in Gatorade but also in other drinks, like milk.
If you expect to be in a place where medicine for nausea and vomiting is not readily available, you should bring some kind of non-prescription, anti-nausea medication with you. This might include, but is not limited to B6 supplements, ginger, antihistamines, and bismuth, which all help with digestion, nausea and diarrhea.
There you have it: some simple techniques that could help you save a life. These exact approaches have led to many stories of real life heroism. Your actions in those first minutes could make all the difference to you, a stranger or someone you care about. There are literally countless people day in, and day out, who save lives with a little bit of knowledge, and by being in the right place at the right time.
You might need something with electrolytes to rebalance your body’s fluids, which are contained not just in Gatorade but also in other drinks, like milk.
--Dr. Jose Torradas
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