Should I Learn Basic Life Support (BLS) If I Have A Relative In The Family With Heart Disease?

Dr. Harlan Krumholz answers the question: 'Should I Learn Basic Life Support?'

ByABC News
January 31, 2008, 5:07 PM

— -- Question: Should I learn basic life support (BLS) if I have a relative in the family with heart disease?

Answer: Basic life support, now what is this exactly? Well, this is a series of techniques that are used for pre-hospital care for someone who's had a cardiac arrest. It essentially buys time before more experienced people come with more equipment and with drugs.

This kind of basic life support is really what is done when you don't have any tools around you, no drugs, no defibrillator, nothing, it's just you, maybe you or a few other people, and it's how you provide care. It's about the ABC's of providing care for someone whose heart has stopped, they've stopped breathing, and it's about airway, it's about breathing, it's about circulation. And again, it's about allowing them to have a chance to survive. Not only survive, but survive in a way that they can get back to where they were because you're helping provide the circulation and breathing that they need until definitive therapy can be available.

The question is: should you learn this if you have a relative with heart disease? I think we should be making a concerted effort to make sure every American, everyone, in other countries, too, but that everyone learns these basic techniques, because they're life-saving. There's nothing more amazing than seeing someone have a cardiac arrest, drop on the street, get the appropriate intervention. And that really usually represents basic life support and then advanced life support, and then return to where they were, because they were helped along the way until definitive therapy came and often that involves defibrillation, which is the shock, can bring them right back to where they were.

If we miss that opportunity, if they go a few minutes without blood flow, then even if you do help restore their circulation and breathing, they often can sustain brain damage. Now, we can virtually prevent that if we jump in right away and help them, and so these simple lessons, the simple tools of basic life support, are really part of the competency that we should all have as citizens.

And let me just say the first part about basic life support if you're ever in this situation is call for help, because you are buying time while more definitive therapy come, while reinforcements come, and so you want to make sure that people are coming, but in the meantime, you want to jump in, you want to provide the resuscitation, the CPR. You don't want to have any delays, or any pauses in providing it, and you want to give that person every chance of survival and recovery, recovery to where they were before.

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