How Knowing CPR Can Help Save A Life

Posted on 2 December 2019

Learn a skill that could save someone’s life.

Earlier this year, a 56-year-old man collapsed at his workplace in Parow Industria. When ER24 paramedics arrived at the factory, they found the man unresponsive. “They were informed that he had clutched his chest just before collapsing and that a first aider had been performing CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) for 10 minutes,” says ER24 spokesperson Ross Campbell. “Our medics were able to successfully treat the man with the use of a defibrillator, rushing him to Tygerberg Hospital for further treatment.”

This is just one of numerous examples showcasing how administering CPR timeously – and appropriately – can save lives.

As Tiaan Meyer, branch manager for ER24 in Pietermaritzburg, explains, CPR should only be performed on someone who is suffering from cardiac arrest, which is not the same as a heart attack. “A heart attack occurs when the blood supply to part of the heart stops, causing a section of the heart muscle to begin to die, whereas a cardiac arrest occurs when the person’s heart stops beating effectively”. Meyer says. The most common scenarios would be Ventricular Fibrillation (VF) (heart vibrates and does not beat effectively), pulseless Ventricular Tachycardia (VT) or Asystole (heart stops beating). Defibrillation is indicated and often effective for treatment of VF and pulseless VT. ”

A victim of sudden cardiac arrest will collapse suddenly, become unresponsive and stop breathing normally. This happens because the heart is unable to pump blood around the body. After four minutes, the brain’s ability to recover from a lack of oxygen begins to decline. “Administering CPR immediately can significantly increase the patient’s chance of survival and recovery,” Meyer adds.

Cardiac arrest doesn’t just happen to people with chronic health conditions. “Choking, traumatic accidents, near-drowning and electrical shock can all lead to a person going into cardiac arrest,” says Meyer. “Some health conditions like heart disease, infections, allergic reactions and others can also contribute to a sudden cardiac arrest event.”

To perform CPR, you need to apply external pressure to the chest by means of compressions. This squeezes blood from the heart and chest cavity and forces it through the rest of the body, allowing for blood flow. Start CPR by interlocking your fingers and placing both hands on the breast bone of the chest. This is right in the centre of the chest. Push down onto the breast bone, keeping your arms straight and locking your shoulders. Release the compression and repeat at a rate of at least 100 – 120 compressions per minute. “CPR should only be stopped if your life is in danger, if you are physically exhausted to the point where you cannot continue or until help arrives,” says Meyer. In an emergency it is important to ask a bystander to call for professional help as soon as possible, (such as an ambulance service) and tell them that CPR is in progress. They will then bring a defibrillator, which is used to treat shockable heart dysrhythmias. Make sure you know the ambulance phone number.

“It is no longer required to do mouth-to-mouth during CPR,” he adds. This is because it  discourages people from starting CPR and delays the start of chest compressions (the most important element of CPR). Research shows there is no difference in survival rates when patients are given compression-only CPR or where mouth-to-mouth is performed intermittently.


Completing a CPR course could mean that you are able to save someone’s life. Although ER24 no longer offer commercial first aid training to individuals or corporate institutions, first aid courses are managed and provided by ER24’s service provider, 24Training. To book a first aid course or find out more about available courses, contact

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In the interest of our patients, in accordance with SA law and our commitment to expertise, Mediclinic cannot subscribe to the practice of online diagnosis. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical advice. If you have any major concerns, please see your doctor for an assessment. If you have any cause for concern, your GP will be able to direct you to the appropriate specialists.

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