Bystander CPR, Disparities, and Technology

Posted | Posted in Featured, Opinion

Our team just attended a Duke-wide training on CPR. I’ve been trained on CPR before, as have many of the people I work with, but never like this! When we walked in, the trainers were like, “Ok, new CPR rules, don’t give mouth-to-mouth, and you don’t need to be certified.” Why?

Because somewhere along the way, emergency professionals (and probably researchers) realized that although 80% of cardiac arrests occur in the home (and therefore would benefit from CPR while awaiting an ambulance), a full 70% of Americans feel helpless to act during a cardiac emergency. But, according to the American Heart Association, effective bystander CPR provided immediately after sudden cardiac arrest can double or triple a victim’s chance of survival. That’s HUGE! 

Currently, only 8% of people who suffer cardiac arrest outside the hospital survive. That means just with our hands, we could increase those rates to 25%! 

And of course, there are disparities in these numbers. Blacks are almost twice as likely to experience cardiac arrest at home, work, or in another public location than whites, and their survival rates are twice as poor as for whites. 

(Our source for all above stats is

The good news is, CPR is straightforward, and only takes some goodwill, the nerve, and the ability to press hard on someone’s chest. Here are a few tips that just might blow your mind:

1) You will do  more harm by not performing CPR than you will by doing it. That’s because, 

2) The real point of CPR is to make the heart continue pumping blood to the brain while the person is unresponsive/not breathing/without pulse. Put a different way, the point of CPR is not (necessarily) to resuscitate someone. That’s the job of well-trained EMTs. 

The correct procedure is as follows:

1) Check the person. Is s/he unresponsive? If so, 

2) Move him/her to a hard surface, like the floor. 

3) Assign one person around you to call 911 (or you do it if you’re alone), and to find an AED (Automated External Defibrillator)

4) Assume the correct CPR position and begin performing chest compressions – push hard and fast in the center of the chest at a rate of at least 100bpm (the beat of Stayin’ Alive by the BeeGees, which is also my mom’s favorite song).

4*) Warning: You will probably crack a rib. In North Carolina, you’ll be covered under Good Samaritan Laws if that happens. See above note about doing more harm by not performing CPR than performing it. 

5) Keep doing that until help arrives! 

Now – where does technology come in? Well, wouldn’t it be super helpful if your phone could help you through this? You’d just tell Siri, “My friend is having a heart attack!” and Siri could be like, “ok, stay calm, you can do this…” and then walk you through the steps? 

…hopefully Apple will be working on this for iOS 10…but in the meantime, check out this app on Pocket CPR and First Aid, and then check out this project in Stockholm that notifies people trained in CPR when someone in a nearby area needs it. Maybe we can get this in the USA! Who wants to work with us on it? Email Erica if you’re interested!