Restart a heart day 2016 – every child a lifesaver

Less than 1 in 10 people who have a cardiac arrest outside of hospital in the UK survives.

Every year 30,000 people in the UK have an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, but the survival rate is less than 1 in 10. (Resuscitation Council UK)

On Tuesday 18 October, several resuscitation dolls were brought through the doors of a primary and secondary school. Doctors and nurses at St Mary’s Hospital joined forces to support the campaign for Restart a Heart Day. The aim of the campaign was a simple yet effective one: help train as many children and young people as possible in the UK to learn to save a life and make every child a lifesaver.

Topics covered included cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), recovery position, and healthy lifestyle behaviours. CPR is an emergency procedure in which a person presses up and down on the casualty’s chest (chest compressions) and gives them a series of rescue breaths to help save their life when they are in cardiac arrest (heart stops beating). CPR is a procedure that should only be used when someone is unconscious and not breathing – or not breathing – normally. If someone is unconscious but they are breathing normally, you still need to call 999 and then put them in the recovery position.

80 per cent of out of hospital cardiac arrests happen in the home. Acting fast and calling for help early could save someone’s life. Teaching children through an interactive workshop was well received, enjoyable and exhausting. The children left the workshop feeling more confident and knowledgeable of what actions to take in the event of finding someone who is unconscious and not breathing.

One of the children said "I feel like a hero, I can now save someone’s life" – it was great to have such positive feedback.

Walking through the entrance of the secondary school took me back in time. A time of timetables, friendships, different subjects and eagerly anticipated break and lunch times. I still remember the joy of having external speakers come in and the learning opportunities they would bring. Today, it was my opportunity to be someone who could teach students something outside the four walls of the classroom. The opportunity to save a life through basic life support.

The most enjoyable parts for me were connecting with children and exploring their ideas and concerns about basic life support. It soon became clear that if one child was uncomfortable with mouth to mouth resuscitation, the others would follow suit! To add some variety I helped demonstrate putting unconscious but breathing people into the recovery position and asked for children to perform role-plays of what to do in an emergency setting. Holding the attention of children for 80 minutes, and requesting children to behave calmly and quietly after building rapport was an enjoyable but difficult challenge.

I imagine that everyone took something different from the Restart a Heart Day, and I hope that the day helped them in their journey to become more confident in coping with a situation that requires basic life support!