A deadly respiratory virus
You’ve been up all night. Your sweet baby girl, 5 months old, is suffering from her first cold. Her stuffy nose and congested cry just breaks your heart. Sitting in the steamy bathroom, listening to the shower, you hope the steam will help your baby to breathe better, but it hasn’t helped yet. Your wife is sleeping in the bedroom on the other side of the door. She was up all night last night trying to soothe your fussy daughter.
Her crying stops and you sigh with relief. She needs rest. You both do. Something doesn’t feel right, though. Seconds ago, you could feel her head bob up and down with each breath. Now, she’s still. Too still. You turn on the light and realize your baby is blue around the lips and isn’t moving. “Claire! Claire, baby, are you ok? Wake up, sweet girl!” She doesn’t respond. You scream, “Kim! Kim, wake up! Something’s wrong with Claire! Call 9-1-1!”
Thankfully, your employer offered CPR classes a year ago. You’re exhausted, but you know you must start compressions immediately. You remember from your CPR class that you must place your first two fingers over the bottom of her breastbone; you start compressions. “One and two and three and…” Thirty compressions later, you lift her chin slightly, cover her nose and mouth with your mouth, and blow twice into her mouth for one second each; her chest rises, so you know you did it correctly. Your wife puts EMS on speaker and comes to your side. This time, you stop at 15 compressions and your wife gives your baby two rescue breaths. After a few rounds of CPR, the dispatcher breaks in to say the ambulance is pulling into your driveway. Your wife runs downstairs to meet them, and you return to the 30 compressions/2 breath cycle until the paramedics run in and take over.
You watch while they put a breathing tube in her windpipe and put EKG leads on her chest and a pulse oximeter. Her heart rate is 62 beats per minute. Not high enough, but she doesn’t need CPR anymore. After a half a minute or so, her heart rate begins to climb slowly. 70, 80, 90, 100 beats per minute. Her oxygen saturation, low at first, begins to rise. The paramedics sigh with relief and turn to you, “Great job, sir. Performing CPR like you did kept your baby alive. We’re going to take her to the hospital where they will keep treating her. You can meet us there.” They place her gently on the stretcher, strap her in, and take her to the ambulance.
Babies and CPR
While the heart is the cause of cardiac arrest in adults, babies’ and children’s hearts stop most frequently because they stop breathing, also known as acute respiratory failure. This is usually caused by a respiratory virus like that which causes the common cold. The baby in this story was struggling to breathe until she just couldn’t breathe anymore, so her heart stopped.
Thankfully, her parents had taken a CPR class sponsored by his employer so he knew what to do. His quick thinking kept blood and oxygen going to her brain until the paramedics could provide a stable airway and give her oxygen. Without his CPR, they may never have gotten their baby back.
Occasionally, babies are born with heart defects that are not diagnosed by ultrasounds before birth. It is recommended that a simple, noninvasive test is performed before the baby is discharged after birth to determine if there is a problem with the baby’s heart that needs further evaluation. Sometimes, though, the test isn’t performed or, if it is performed, it can’t detect the problem with the heart. This can also sometimes lead to sudden cardiac arrest after a few weeks.
Prevalence of Sudden Cardiac Arrest in Children
The CDC estimates that sudden cardiac arrest will take the lives of 2000 individuals less than 25 years of age each year¹. Bystander CPR, that is CPR performed by laypersons who witness the individual’s collapse, increase the chance of survival of children whose hearts stop. The more civilians who are trained in how to perform CPR on children who have collapsed, the higher the likelihood that someone near the child who collapses knows CPR and can start CPR right away. This will lead to better outcomes for all children.
Can you get a CPR certification online?
CPR certifications are now readily available online. These certification classes teach both adult and pediatric cardiopulmonary resuscitation. You can spend a little time, not much money, learn how to save adults and children whose hearts have stopped, and earn your CPR certification online, all in the comfort of your own home! This is a great option for new parents and the whole family. Teenagers who babysit their siblings or other children are excellent candidates for online CPR certification. If your employer requires a provider BLS/CPR, you can do part of your certification online, but you will have to meet with an instructor to perform the return demonstration part of provider certification. Get your family together and earn your CPR certifications online! While no one ever wants to use this certification, earning your CPR certification online might just save the life of someone you love.
Pediatric Sudden Cardiac Arrest (2012). American Academy of Pediatrics, 129. Retrieved from http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/129/4/e1094