CPR: Get to the heart of the matter

CPR: Get to the heart of the matter

CPR course could help to save a life, says Helen O’Callaghan.

The Irish Heart Foundation (IHF) is urging people to learn to be a life-saver, with free CPR courses happening across Ireland this month.

Every day in Ireland, 13 people die from cardiac arrest — for every minute without CPR and defibrillation, chances of survival decrease by 10%.

Lucinda McNerney, southern services development manager at IHF, keeps an AED (automated external defibrillator) in the hallway of her Cork home.

Two of her three children have Long QT syndrome, a disorder of the heart’s electrical activity that can cause sudden, uncontrollable arrhythmias in response to exercise/stress.

These heart rhythms can be fatal.

A cardiac event happens most of the time in the home. We don’t want someone standing, looking on.

"We want people to have the confidence to use CPR, which is such a simple skill,” says Lucinda, who suffered a cardiac arrest at 18 and subsequently discovered she had Long QT syndrome.

In London, the summer before she was due to start college, a neglected sore throat developed into a strep throat infection.

Referred to hospital, Lucinda felt great post-procedure but was dehydrated.

“They kept me overnight. I went to sleep and woke up in the cardiac care unit.

"I’d had cardiac arrest during the night. I was extremely lucky a nurse passing by realised [what was happening],” she says.

With a pacemaker inserted, Lucinda, who’d had no previous symptoms and was a competitive basketball player, took time to get used to “having something inside my body that I was dependent on” and to beta-blocker meds, which caused tiredness.

Years later, she realised this was an inherited condition her children had a 50/50 chance of having too.

Her son, 16, has done so well on beta blockers that his activities restriction (swimming is a trigger) has been lifted.

“He plays competitive sport, has gone on roller coasters and on school trips.

"But there’s always a defibrillator and somebody at the location trained in CPR. He always has a defibrillator in his bag,” she says.

IHF has a video series with real-life stories of people whose lives were saved by CPR.

Courses are taking place as part of Hands for Life, a free CPR training programme supported by Abbott and ESB Networks.

IHF resuscitation manager Brigid Sinnott says: “Performing quality compressions quickly can double or even triple a person’s chance of survival.”

CPR courses

Hands for Life training courses take place in community centres/workplaces/clubs, and venues across Ireland. The free course is under an hour long and attendees will learn:

  •  How to recognise cardiac arrest;

  •  How to perform compressions, including hands-on practice;

  •  How to use an AED (automated external defibrillator);

  •  How to respond to a choking emergency;

  •  How to recognise stroke.

    See: www.HandsForLife.ie.

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