An easy way to save a life

Sometimes your heart needs a hand.

That’s the basic principal behind CPR — when a heart stops beating on its own, quick and regular pumps on a person’s chest can keep it going.

It’s amazing that this actually works, actually saves lives. Think about it: There’s no simple remedy for a brain injury, no fast and easy way to keep a kidney going.

But your heart, among the most vital of vital organs? Just get a friend to press on it good and fast, and you can escape death.

Despite the ease of CPR, the American Heart Association says roughly 70 percent of people may feel helpless in an emergency because of their inability to perform it, a troubling statistic considering CPR usually saves the life of a loved one.

The Anderson family of Snohomish reminded the community of that fact this summer.

On July 13, Travis Anderson, 9, almost drowned in the Pilchuck River. His clear-headed mother, Kim Anderson, administered CPR until firefighters took over. After a stay at Seattle Children’s Hospital, Travis is home, playing with Legos and the family dog, Tripper.

His mother credits CPR with saving her son. She encourages everyone to learn it. So do we.

Start with the American Heart Association, the best resource on CPR, the one used by many medical professionals to polish their own skills.

The association offers CPR courses, the best way to learn the technique.

It also explains CPR basics on its website, www.heart.org. The two most important steps are worth repeating here.

First, call 911, or get someone to call for you — obvious, sure, but easy to forget in a panic.

Then pump hard on the center of the person’s chest, near the bottom of their breastbone, with both hands. You may break some ribs — that happens about a third of the time — but it’s better than the alternative.

Your goal is at least 100 pumps a minute. To reach that number, hum the Bee Gees song “Stayin’ Alive.” The tempo of the fortuitously named track has 103 beats per minute — ideal.

Some may notice there isn’t any mouth-to-mouth involved. Studies have found that, for general purposes, it’s not vital. Here’s why: When a heart stops, the lungs and blood still have unused oxygen in them. Pumping on the chest moves that oxygen through the body, keeping the person alive until experienced help arrives.

Surveys also have found the simplified approach makes it more likely people will perform CPR.

And if you do that — perform CPR — you can end up with a good story to tell.

Remember that time you saved that guy’s life?

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