Pandemic Perspective #13      June 13

          This Saturday’s blog is part of a sort-of-regular newsletter that I provide to persons in our church congregation who have taken our CPR course – more than 700 since the program began in 2001 – or who have expressed a desire to take a class. Learning basic CPR is one of the most valuable things that you will ever experience. The fear, anxiety and paralysis that affect most untrained persons when a loved one collapses will no longer affect you after a mere three hours of training.

          I’m sure that many of you have been concerned, as I have been, about the risk that we might be taking these days if we provide CPR for a person whose COVID-19 status we don’t know. Some authorities tell us that many persons with the infection are asymptomatic although that is conjecture with mixed opinions from scientists. The conflicting statements from the W.H.O. are clear evidence of that. A seemingly similar conjecture appeared in a article this week.

An analysis from Seattle concluded that providing CPR during the pandemic carries little risk. I want to emphasize – as the analysts themselves honestly do – there is no real evidence for the numbers that they provide. However, it is somewhat reassuring, although it is based on “compressions only” (known as “hands only”) in which there are NO rescue breaths (mouth-to-mouth) given. The assumption is that ten percent of victims are infected and the assumed risk for acquiring infection is ten percent by rescuers NOT wearing masks (PPE – Personal Protective Equipment). In other words, your risk of getting infected is one out of a hundred.

If the risk of dying is one percent (or 0.01 percent in the opinion of some epidemiologists), your risk of dying if you give someone compressions-only CPR is one out of ten thousand!

I’d like to offer a couple of points:

You can’t give rescue breaths through a mask. But the analysts suggest wearing one if you only provide compressions.

The victim might need rescue breathing!! Not all unconscious, non-breathing victims have a heart problem. A person might have a heartbeat but no breathing if they have had a stroke, were electrocuted or have had a drug overdose.

If more than about four minutes have elapsed since the victim stopped breathing, they will require oxygen via rescue breathing. If professional responders have not arrived by then, what will you do?

Do you have a barrier mask with you at all times? The smallest packets with a simple plastic mask are a little bigger than your thumb and are easy to carry in your pocket, purse, car glove compartment or console, or on a key ring. They cost about $1.00 on Amazon. You might not find them at your local CVS or Walgreens.

Finally, if you are under the age of 60 and don’t have any heart, lung, kidney or immune system disorders, your risk of serious disease in doing a FULL resuscitation are vanishingly small but immensely rewarding.



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