CPR: Sometimes age is just a number
Michelle Cook is no stranger to Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR). Before starting with the ER24 Westville branch in May of last year, she worked as a paramedic on the cruise liners for more than two years. Throughout her time on the water, she saw more than ten cases whereby CPR was administered – most of them successful.
“I saw with my own eyes what is possible with early CPR. Most of the time, it helps a lot if you witnessed the arrest as you can immediately call for help and perhaps administer hands-only CPR if you are a bystander. It truly gives the patient a better chance at survival if your reaction time is fast,” said Michelle, who is also currently busy with her BTech in Emergency Medical Care.
In January, Michelle was called to a home in Durban for a medical case. The patient was an 87-year-old woman who, by the time Michelle arrived in the response vehicle, was semi-conscious.
“I found her in the lounge, slumped in a chair with shallow breathing. I immediately put the monitor on and assessed her vital signs. The ER24 ambulance crew, Basil Mngonyama and Shaun Naidoo arrived shortly afterwards and began helping to stabilise the patient. The woman suddenly went into cardiac arrest and stopped responding,” said Michelle.
Basil and Shaun immediately initiated high-quality 2-man CPR, and within three minutes, before Michelle could even continue stabilisation and establish IV access, the patient started to respond again.
“The first thing she had asked when she gained consciousness was where her hearing aid was. I had removed it earlier as I didn’t want it to be damaged while we were busy with CPR. I thought to myself wow; it is just so amazing that a person can go from a near-death experience to coming around as if nothing had happened.
“Patients at an advanced age fall within a high-risk category due to various reasons. Her rapid and full response post-resuscitation was quite remarkable,” said Michelle.
Dr Vernon Wessels, ER24 Site Based Medical Services Doctor, concurs that the case is remarkable, especially given her age.
“The cause of the cardiac arrest is critical. When the heart stops because of age-related changes to the heart, organs or blood vessels, the outcome is usually not good compared to a more reversible cause in a younger adult with otherwise healthier organs. This case proves the value of CPR, which was successful despite the patient’s age,” he said.
Michelle and the team transported her to the hospital by ambulance, and it is understood that everything went well with the patient’s recovery.
“I am and will remain very passionate about CPR. As a BLS instructor, I enjoy training others and helping them prepare to respond effectively in the situation. All too often once members of the public have completed training, they state they should have done so a long time ago. I also believe that every paramedic should stay up to date with guidelines and protocols and practice what you can. It is not for us to decide what the outcome is going to be but do your best while in the situation. That is all we can do,” said Michelle.