It shocked the nation to see Buffalo Bills player Damar Hamlin suddenly collapse on the field after a tackle during a “Monday Night Football” game. Hamlin, who survived, suffered from cardiac arrest.
“What we did see in Damar Hamlin’s case was that chest compressions were started right away,” says John Ryan, MD, MB, a cardiologist and associate professor in the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine at University of Utah Health. “Starting chest compressions as quickly as possible is key to survival.”
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, may have saved Hamlin’s life. About 9 in 10 people who have cardiac arrest outside the hospital die, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, CPR can improve those odds, doubling or tripling a person’s chance of survival.
When to Use CPR
The emergency procedure can be used when a person’s breathing or heart stops.
You can tell a person is in cardiac arrest if they:
- Suddenly collapse and lose consciousness
- Are not responding to shaking or shouting
- Aren’t breathing
- Are gasping for air
How CPR Works
During cardiac arrest, a person’s heart stops beating and blood is not pumped to the rest of the body. Chest compressions from CPR mimic how the heart pumps and helps keep blood flowing through the body.
How to Perform CPR
You don’t need formal training to perform CPR—anyone can do it. It is, however, important to follow these steps:
- Call 9-1-1 if someone is not breathing or experiencing cardiac arrest.
- Perform chest compressions by pushing down hard and fast in the center of the chest—about 100 to 120 pushes a minute. You can time your compressions by singing the song “Staying Alive.” This is called hands-only CPR.
- Use an automated external defibrillator (AED) if one is available. These portable machines can electrically shock the heart and cause it to start beating again.
- Continue CPR until medical professionals arrive or until a person with formal CPR training can take over.
Get CPR Certified
While you don’t have to be certified to perform the life-saving measure, a CPR/First Aid Certification course can better help you recognize and respond to emergencies at home and in your community.
“Those who get CPR certified are more likely to do it within their home,” Ryan says. “So, if you love your loved ones, learn how to do chest compressions and you could save a life.”