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By Darin Heinz

You can save a life knowing and starting the chain of survival

You can beat a killer. It is not complicated requiring a medical background or schooling. It is commonly called starting the chain of survival.

What is the chain of survival? This is a term used to describe the sequence of events needed to help save someone who has gone into cardiac arrest. Here, we will discuss the first two links. After the first two links medically trained personnel take over.

The chain of survival

The links in the chain of survival are:
1. Recognize an emergency and call 911
2. Start CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation)
3. Defibrillation
4. Administration of medications/Post cardiac arrest care

What is a heart attack?

First, some background. A heart attack is not the same as cardiac arrest. A heart attack is when a part of the heart muscle dies or is injured. When this happens, a person is usually conscious, alert and able to speak. In the medical field, this is referred to as "alert and oriented."

A person having a heart attack usually has pain in the left side of their chest, where the heart is located, that often radiates to their back, jaw and most commonly, their left arm. This person needs to be taken to the hospital immediately, preferably in an ambulance. If there is no ambulance service in your area, then you or a neighbor must take this person to the hospital.

Do not let their objections that "I am fine" deter you. A heart attack can and often does become cardiac arrest. Cardiac arrest is a killer. Call 911.

What is cardiac arrest?

In contrast to a heart attack, someone in cardiac arrest will not be able to tell you if they are in pain. They will be unresponsive. Unlike a heart attack, where the heart is damaged but still functioning, a person in cardiac arrest has a heart that is not working properly.

Their heart may have some electrical activity but it is not pumping to support life. The heart is dying, and so are they. The victim has at most 10 to 15 minutes from the onset of cardiac arrest to get life-saving treatment, or they will die.

Starting the chain of survival

What can you do? Start the chain of survival. First, check for responsiveness. Put a hand under each shoulder and gently shake them while asking, "Are you OK?" If there is no response after a few seconds of this, have someone near you call 911 immediately. If you are alone, you must call 911 before doing anything else.

Recognizing an emergency and calling 911 is the first link in the chain of survival. If the person is in cardiac arrest, nothing you do for them after this will be of any long-term use if professional help is not on the way. Call 911.

When you call 911, answer all of the questions you are asked and do not hang up until you are instructed. This will allow the person taking the emergency call to give the most accurate information to the paramedics who will be responding.

Second, after checking for responsiveness and calling 911, proceed to performing chest compressions. Please see the American Heart Association website for the most recent information on performing chest compressions and where to find a CPR class near you.

Finding someone in cardiac arrest is a stressful and traumatic experience. But by recognizing a life-threatening emergency, immediately calling 911 and possibly performing CPR, you will start the chain of survival and could have the extraordinary experience of saving a life!

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