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This is why bystander CPR can save a life

What started as a regular Sunday morning quickly turned into a day that could have changed a young family’s life forever. This is a true story of how bystander CPR and early activation of Emergency Services can save a life. 

On Sunday the 14th of October Melt Loubser was in the living room at the family home in George, while his wife Mariliza was busy in the kitchen. He heard her scream his name before she collapsed on the floor. At first, he thought that she had fainted because of low blood sugar as she had looked a little pale the morning, but when he felt no pulse, he realised this was something else.

“I immediately started with CPR. I asked my daughters to fetch my phone in the room, and then while keeping the phone on speaker on the floor, I phoned ER24. For me, it was unfortunate that our children saw everything. They were asking questions while I was busy with the CPR, so I tried to keep them busy by making them run little errands, like trying to see if our neighbour was at home,” said Melt.

A few minutes later Michael Herholdt and Celia Botha, ER24 medics from the George branch, arrived at the scene with ER24 medic Waldo de Kock following shortly afterwards.

“When I arrived Michael and Celia had already attached the Automated External Defibrillator (AED), and three shocks were delivered. I immediately initiated further advanced life support treatment. We defibrillated her five times before we got her pulse back,” said Waldo.

Waldo adds that her husband saved her life. “Bystander CPR is a crucial component to give the person a good chance of survival. Not only does it supply the brain with much-needed oxygen, but it also gives time for the ambulance to arrive. We were on scene a few minutes after she collapsed, but without the initial bystander CPR it can sometimes be too late,” said Waldo.

This incident was particularly difficult on Waldo, Michael and Celia as the three of them are also in their late thirties like Mariliza

“It was also quite difficult with the children there as they were crying and asking us to help their mother. The whole way through Celia kept talking to Mariliza, and we reassured the children that we won’t stop helping their mother,” said Waldo.

Mariliza was admitted to hospital later that day and was discharged on Thursday 18 October.

“There is no other way to describe what had happened than as a miracle. ER24’s team was amazing, and I am thankful for everything they did for my wife and our family,” said Melt.

Dr Robyn Holgate, ER24’s Chief Medical Officer, explains why effective CPR is of utmost importance when a patient is in cardiac arrest.

“Cardiac arrest is synonymous with clinical death. Early CPR improves the flow of blood and oxygen to vital organs, an essential component of treating cardiac arrest. The earlier you give CPR to somebody in cardiac arrest, the higher their chance of survival. CPR should be started as soon as possible and interrupted as little as possible.

“The component of CPR which seems to make the greatest difference is chest compressions. Once chest compressions have commenced, place an AED on the patient’s chest if there is one available. This will help to analyse and identify a shockable rhythm. Early defibrillation (with an AED, or defibrillator as soon as the EMS arrives within the first few minutes of cardiac arrest) is the only effective treatment in the management of ventricular fibrillation.

“If defibrillation is delayed, the rhythm is likely to degenerate into asystole, for which outcomes are worse. The sequence of critical events most likely to improve survival includes early identification of the cardiac arrest and notification of emergency services (call 084 124), performing CPR with minimal interruptions to chest compressions, confirming the rhythm and early defibrillation if indicated, and advanced life support care. Learn CPR for the sake of your loved ones,” said Robyn.

How to perform hands-only CPR:

  1. When you find someone unconscious and unresponsive, try and rouse them. Check whether they are breathing. If you cannot wake them and they are not breathing or gasping, emergency help must be called immediately. Lay the person on their back on a flat surface.
  2. Call ER24 on 084 124. If possible, place the phone on speaker next to you. The emergency call taker will provide you with telephonic assistance. Remain calm and speak clearly.
  3. Start compressions immediately if there are no signs of life. Push hard and fast at a rate of 100-120 compressions per minute. 5-6 cm deep for adults and 4 cm deep for children.
  4. Continue to perform chest compressions until the person revives or when professional help arrives on scenes.