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How to Do Emergency CPR

Updated on April 11, 2013

Everyone should read this just to get the basic idea of how to carry out emergency CPR, which stands for Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation.

While it far better to go to a local First Aid class and learn the technique properly, what you read here could save someone’s life.

If a person collapses in the street, or in a shop or a bar, or even within your own household, you need to know what to do. There isn't always a trained first-aider around.

Sometimes people have suffered from a massive heart attack that stops their heart from beating. This is known as Cardiac Arrest. If the heart is not restarted within 3 minutes, that person will die.

Unlike the movies, most collapses of this type are not preceded by pain when a person clutches their heart and keels over. Quite often they are perfect one minute, then the colour drains from their face and they slip unconscious.

Take note of time
Take note of time

Emergency treatment for cardiac arrest

The first thing you should do if you suspect cardiac arrest is to ball your fist, and thump them hard with the side of your fist on the sternum, which is the bone right in the middle of your ribcage. This sudden shock can restart the heart.

Call for an ambulance at this time; get someone else to do it. Also ask someone to take note of the exact time.

After punching them, lay them flat on the floor and check for a pulse. You could try the wrist but it is much better to look for a carotid pulse which is located in the neck, just under and a bit in front of the ear.

If you find a pulse and the person is breathing, turn them into what is called the recovery position.

In this position, they lie on their side on the floor with the higher-most leg resting over the other leg, drawn up towards the body with the knee bent, and their uppermost arm will be similarly laid out so that they are almost on their stomachs but not quite.

In this position the airways are kept clear.

This is vitally important because the body while unconscious cannot prevent vomit or mucus from entering the trachea, which is the airway to the lungs.

Stay with that person, repeatedly checking that they are still breathing, until help arrives.

Recovery position

Picture coutesy of Rama
Picture coutesy of Rama

if there is no pulse...

Lay the person flat on their back and lay your hand palm down across the sternum.

Lay your other hand on top in the same flat position but at a 90 degree angle to the first hand and compress in quick succession 4 to 6 times.

I was trained to do 4 times, other hospital nurses 6. I see the generally accepted practice is 30 compressions now, but let’s just stick to the simplified version.

I also note that the hand positions have altered in the 30 years since I trained. Now the hand are placed in the same position with one hand interlocked with the other.

However, from the point of view of saving a life, I do not think it makes much odds.

These compressions imitate each heart beat.

You are in effect physically beating their heart for them. If you do it right, you can prevent that person from suffering brain damage or worse.

Let’s say you do 4 compressions.

Then you have to imitate their breathing too.

Making the heart beat is not much help on its own of you do not also imitate breathing for them.

The heart needs the lungs to breathe to push the blood round the body.

Mouth to mouth resuscitation

You should be kneeling beside the person on the floor.

Do 4 heart compressions then turn your attention to his head.

Tilt the head back so that there is more a less a straight line between roughly where his throat is, and his chest.

This opens up his airways making it easier for the passage of air.

Pinch his nostrils, and put your other hand around his chin to keep his head tilted, take a deep breath, cover your mouth over his, and blow.

You should see his chest rising.

This is commonly known as the kiss of life.

Then return to the chest compressions, 4 more then return to his mouth, same procedure, head tilted back, pinch nostril and blow.

Keep going until help arrives

When the paramedics arrive they can take over, but until then carry on.

It is a very tiring procedure, and it is possible to do 6 – 8 compressions, then 2 breaths as that will mean less to-and-froing, allowing you to concentrate harder on what task you are undertaking at the time.

It is possible to press down too hard on the chest and break a rib or two, but don’t let that stop you trying to save this persons life.

It is unlikely the ribs will snap although they might crack. Cracked ribs can heal at a later date, but a stopped heart needs to be re-started.

Don’t worry about the passage of time during this procedure.

People have recovered after having CPR carried out for more than an hour.

When the ambulance arrives, it is important for the paramedics to know exactly how long it has been since the patient has stopped breathing, as well as what procedures were carried out and how quickly CPR was started.

You can practise this procedure on a doll if you go to First Aid classes.

They have special dolls to practise on, but without classes, try and remember the purpose of CPR and the basic routine, and perhaps one day you may be glad you read how to do it.


People can collapse for many reasons – fainting and diabetic comas are two that spring to mind right away. However, these people do not stop breathing, nor do they turn blue.

If you are not sure, you have three minutes to make up your mind to start CPR.

It is long enough, trust me, to check the vital signs of life and to assure yourself they are not there.

Have you ever boiled an egg for just 3 minutes, and stood over it while it’s boiling?

Takes an AGE , doesn’t it?

Well, you have that time to think about what to do. So, don’t panic.

Take your time, and just do it if you think that person is already dead because they have nothing to lose to this point, and everything to gain if you go ahead and try your best.

That is all we can do.


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    • IzzyM profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from UK

      Thanks Mezo - that's praise indeed coming from you!

    • Mezo profile image


      9 years ago from Egypt

      nice and informative, Izzy...good videos too :)



    • IzzyM profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from UK

      Thanks Sage :)

      Actually I was explaining to someone today how they had changed the procedure a bit, and tried the handlock manoevre they suggest to use in the video, and I found it HARDER to do. I'll stick with the old method!

    • Sage Williams profile image

      Sage Williams 

      9 years ago

      Izzy - thanks so much for this wonderful hub. I have taken so many CPR courses in the past but it's been many years and need to do a refresher course soon.

      Your hub was a great reminder and quick refresher course. The video literally brought tears to my eyes.

      You did a great job. Rated this one up!

      Many thanks,


    • IzzyM profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from UK

      Thank you for reading and commenting. I hope this article is of use to someone one day :)

    • blpelton profile image


      9 years ago

      Great article! well done!

    • blpelton profile image


      9 years ago

      very informative! :)

    • IzzyM profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from UK

      Thanks Blondepoet :)

      I hope the number of compressions doesn't confuse anyone - I was trained one way and they do it differently now, but you know, both ways work!

    • blondepoet profile image


      9 years ago from australia

      Wow Izzy you have written a great article here. People really need to read it, you never know it may help them save a life one day. :)


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