After deciding to sell all our possessions, buy a 56′ yacht and sail around the world, we decided to take some courses. Two of the courses we opted for included, First Aid for Boaters and Medical Care Aboard Ships.
Within both courses, the first thing we learned was how to perform Cardio Pulmonary Recitation (CPR). Throughout my life I’ve taken First Aid and practiced on Recitation Annie and every time, it seemed as if the procedure changed. How many breaths? How many hand depressions?
If you haven’t take a course recently, here’s a quick outline of the latest recommended CPR procedure. It’s labeled DR ABC to help remember the procedure.
Current CPR procedure
- Danger – first make sure you’re not putting yourself in danger to approach a causualty. For example, is someone has collapsed do to chemical inhalation you don’t want to rush into the same room.
- Response – try and get a response from the causualty. Yell in both ears and used controlled pain to see if they will respond. Push the your finger into their chest. Apparently – you can’t pinch their ears (a paramedic got sued for that!) If no response, call out for help.
- Airways – look in the mouth and see if there’s anything obvious that’s obstructing the airways. If yes, remove.
- Breathing – If no, tilt the head back to make the windpipe straight. Listen for 10 seconds for breathing. You can put your cheek to the mouth and watch the chest for movement. If casualty is not breaking, tell someone to send a MAYDAY
- Circulation – immediately get their body working again. Do 30 compressions above the heart and then 2 breaths (with the head tilted back and the nose plugged) and carry on until help arrives. Once you start you don’t want to stop. Consistency is key.
If you’re like me and a bit out of date, you might wonder what happened to the whole checking for a pulse bit. Apparently, First Aiders were taking so long to find a pulse that it was having a detrimental impact on the causualty. Even if there is a pulse, it’s okay to perform CPR. It’s better to to CPR than not.
Unfortunately, however, performing CPR does NOT help the heart to re-start
Performing CPR only buys time. To get a heart beating properly – or enough to sustain life – the heart needs to either be shocked or drugged back to a functional organ.
Furthermore, doing chest depressions is an exhausting activity. I’m sad to admit this, but I’m not physically fit in the slightest. I might be slim, but I’m not fit. If I had to do chest depressions for more than 15 minutes I think I’d collapse myself.
And this is where the whole question about carrying a Defibrillator aboard our yacht – Is it really necessary?
Worst case scenario is that hubby keels over. We’re out sailing. What do I do? Even if I can cup the VHF radio to my ear and send a MAYDAY while doing compressions, it’s still going to take at least an hour for a defibrillator or drugs to get to the boat. And in all honesty, I think an hour is best case senario. Worst case is that no one responds, which from what I’m told, happens frequently.
With a Defib at least I have a chance to get the heart beating correctly again. Otherwise, I’ll have to do CPR until I become exhausted or help comes.
However – yes, there’s another issue with all this…
A Defibrillator is not cheap! We’re talking £2,000 or $3,000. Not pocket change – eh? There’s just no way we could afford that.
What a conundrum! If we do need it, £2k is nothing in the scheme of things. But if we don’t need it, it’s a very expensive bit of equipment that taking away from our food budget.
Fortunate for us, the world Ebay popped into our heads. Perhaps people sell these things?! After a bit of searching hubby found one on Ebay. He put a bid in for £300 and didn’t make the reserve. Eventually he got up to £400, the reserve was met and we won the bid! The unit came from a paramedic and has never been used.
So, we now have a Defibrillator on our boat and I hope we never ever have to use it.
As a side note, it’s interesting to know that a Defib doesn’t re-start a heart. If a heart is totally stopped and there’s no electrical current the Defib can’t do anything. The heart must have some electromagnativity in it. In other words, if there’s a flat line, the Defib won’t work.
Can anyone use a Defibrillator?
Yes. In fact, these things are super easy to use. This is how they work:
- You attach the pads to the machine and person. The pads have diagrams showing you where to to put them.
- You turn the machine on and it looks for a heart rhythm, however small it is
- If it detects a rythm, it will tell you to stand back and either it administers the shock or tells you to push the button that sends the shock
- After the shock the machine tells you to keep doing CPR (shock didn’t work) or stop doing the CPR (shock did work)
- If the Defib doesn’t work the first time, it will keep checking for a rhythm every couple minutes and tell you what to do.
So…is it really necessary to carry a Defibrillator aboard your yacht?
Well, if you’re going to do long sails away from land and emergency services I think it’s definitely worth a consideration.