Compression Only CPR

Imagine yourself doing your daily routine. You are a businessman walking towards your car. You are a dental hygienist just finishing with your last patient. You’re in the middle of stretching exercises with a patient at your Physical Therapy clinic. You are a student heading to the library.

Suddenly, you notice someone keel over clutching their chest. They look at you but are unable to say anything. They fall and become unresponsive.

– Google Images

You are at a safe location, and of course, you head over to the person lying on the ground. You try to get a response as you frantically start tapping for the person to wake up, move or say something. The person stays motionless. You scan the chest… the person is not breathing.

For a split second, your stomach churns as it dawns on you that someone had a heart attack in front of you. It’s easy to react when someone who falls over, looks at you or cries out, painfully say they are fine and accepts your help to stand up. It’s not easy when they have technically died with you as the witness or the only witness to this tragedy.


You just took a CPR/ First Aid course yesterday and for some reason cannot even remember what to do next. You try…

… checked the scene was safe… checked for responsiveness… checked for breathing and/or pulse… what’s next? Is it give a breath? Look inside the mouth? Leave the victim? Get that CPR/ First Aid course book that’s at home? Call a friend?

You forgot what the next step was. But you at least remembered the instructor say that if there’s anything at all that was retained from the course, at least remember to call emergency services and start doing chest compressions for those that need CPR.

You immediately call 911 with your cell phone and start doing chest compressions while talking to the operator at the other end of the line. You tell them what happened, what you’re doing and where you’re located. You continue doing chest compressions while the 911 operator guides and listens to you count with each compression. Finally, with relief, you hear the sirens, an ambulance screeching to a halt and two emergency workers rushing towards you.


It’s very common to freeze and forget everything and anything during an emergency. Ask even the most experienced emergency responder and they would tell you that at one point or another, they forgot what to do next at any point of performing CPR/ First Aid. It’s good when there’s someone else with you during the event as two heads are better than one. But it’s more difficult if you’re alone.

Fear and panic is natural. It’s a normal human flight or fight response. Remember those times at school during an exam. You study all weekend and on the day of the test, you can’t even process or understand the first question… then the second… or even the third. Remember those times where you overslept for work, school, date or any activity. You run to the closet, change your clothes, get your bag and as soon as the door closes behind you, you realize you forgot not only your wallet but the only key to the house.

As far as CPR/ First Aid, just like what that instructor said, if you forget everything that was taught in class, just remember to call 911 and start compressing the chest. Compressions Only CPR is a valid practice during a traumatic event, especially for those who were not trained in CPR/ First Aid. The mortality rate to the Emergency Department after high quality CPR (Chest compressions, breath and the use of an Automated External Defibrillator) are about the same.


Continuously compressing the heart allows oxygen- rich blood to flow throughout the victims body supplying oxygen to the body’s most important organs. These organs include but are not limited to the heart, lungs and the brain. These organs would be perfused as if the patient had gone into shock, which is what technically happens during CPR after a heart attack. As long as these vital organs are being supplied, it decreases the chance for those organs to fail entirely and improves the chances for the victim after revival.

The risks are obviously the same for Compressions Only CPR compared to High Quality CPR as damage to the victim’s organs could occur, a rib may break, etc. Thankfully, you are covered by the Good Samaritan Law that each US State has. However, the downside to Compressions Only CPR is that there are no breaks in between compressions as it would be for High Quality CPR. Especially if you are by yourself. During High Quality CPR, breaks occur when giving mouth- to- mouth resuscitation, switching compressors, when analyzing a rhythm or pressing the ‘shock’ button on the AED. With Compressions Only CPR, you continue with compressions until emergency services arrive, someone is there to help, you are too exhausted to continue, the area becomes dangerous or making the hard decision to discontinue if appropriate.

Compressions Only CPR is an effective way to help save a life. Although not as preferred compared to High Quality CPR, it is still beneficial especially when one has gone into ‘panic mode’.

Thank you for reading!

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