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Sudden Cardiac Arrest: What will you do if the person next to you collapses?

"What will you do if the person next to you collapses?" I asked attendees of a Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) Awareness Drive at the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (Gaborone).

As soon as I asked this question, I could see nervous smiles in the audience yearning for an answer from me.  Most of the times sudden collapse is due to SCA, a condition where electrical impulses of the heart become  rapid, chaotic and subsequently, this causes the heart to stop effective beating.

Blood supply to brain is reduced / stopped leading to unconsciousness. Over 90% of the SCA incidents happen at the workplace or home, and victims have absolutely no symptoms to indicate the onset of SCA. Less than 30% of these victims receive timely care.


Think SCA is a Heart Attack?

That’s like comparing oranges and apples. Heart attack is a clot problem. Blood flow to the distal part of the heart muscle is blocked. Heart attack occurs when a clot forms in a blood vessel carrying oxygenated blood to the heart muscle. If the blocked vessel is not reopened quickly the muscle normally nourished by that vessel begins to die. Typically, during a heart attack the heart continues to pump blood. The longer the person with a heart attack goes without treatment, the greater the possible damage to the heart muscle.     Sudden cardiac arrest is a rhythm problem.

This abnormal rhythm causes the heart to quiver so it can no longer pump blood to the brain, lungs and other organs. Within seconds the person becomes unresponsive and is not breathing nor gasping. Death occurs within minutes if the victim does not receive immediate lifesaving treatment.


Timely CPR is critical to save a life!

If a person collapses, don’t be afraid. Simply check responsiveness, the pulse and the breath of the collapsed victim. If both pulse and breathing  are absent

and victim is unresponsive , administer Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation

(CPR) immediately by repeatedly pushing hard and fast (at least 100 times per minute) on  the centre of the chest.

Bystanders can alert emergency services for help, but the victim must continue to receive high quality  CPR till the pulse is restored, and/or medical care arrives. When CPR is administered correctly, followed by use of AED (Automated External Defibrillator) the heartbeat can resume and a life saved.  Anyone from obese people to the fittest of athletes can be cardiac-arrest victims, but CPR given within three minutes after the “collapse” can boost survival chances by as much by 70%.

On the other hand, victims receiving CPR after 10 minutes have less than 10% rate of survival.

NCDs or Non-Communicable Diseases such as sudden cardiac arrest are silent killers.

Although SCA is unpredictable, lifestyle changes such as eating healthy, quitting drinking & smoking, doing more physical activities, and regular health checks can reduce risk of exposure to SCA.


You do not need to be medical professional to master CPR!

Training for CPR is as easy as C-A-B ( Compression, Airway, Breathing) It’s  important, and affordable. The next life you may save could be the life of your loved one. Being calm and composed to properly administer CPR can double-triple chances of restoring heartbeats, and prevent unnecessary deaths. Currently, I am creating awareness at several institutions in Botswana, with a simple message for all “Save Heart, Save Life!”

Training the maximum people  in high quality CPR, will reduce the deaths due to sudden cardiac arrest.

Dr. Datta (MBBS, MD, DCH) is a consultant Haematologist & Certified BLS/ACLS Provider & Instructor (American Heart Association)

+267-7253-0581 /

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