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When someone suffers a heart attack, rapid medical care can mean the difference between survival and death. Preferably, this care should be given by medical professionals, but if you are in the presence of a heart attack victim, you can take a few steps to further his chances of survival while he waits for help to arrive. Most importantly, you should contact your local emergency care provider, and follow its instructions thoroughly. This may include making the heart attack victim as comfortable as possible, helping him take aspirin, using an automated external defibrillator (AED), and administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if necessary.
The single most important step you can take in helping a heart attack victim is contacting your local emergency care provider. Unless you have no alternative, do not attempt to transport the victim to a hospital yourself, as emergency transport vehicles are outfitted with equipment allowing medical personnel to begin treatment on the way to the hospital. Instead, remain with the victim, follow the emergency care provider’s instructions thoroughly, and try to stay calm.
You will likely be instructed to make the heart attack victim as comfortable as possible. If the victim is conscious, you might try easing him into a chair or helping him sit against a wall with his knees bent. Should the victim be unconscious, you should gently turn him onto his back so that you can monitor his breathing and administer CPR if necessary.
If the heart attack victim is conscious, you may also be asked to help him take an aspirin tablet to reduce clotting of the blood. As you should avoid leaving the victim if possible, ask a nearby person to bring an aspirin to you. For best results, ensure that the victim chews the tablet before swallowing it. Prior to administering aspirin, it is important to make sure that the victim is not allergic to it.
Many public places keep an AED in an accessible location. This device delivers an electrical shock which can restore the heart’s normal rhythm. If the heart attack victim is unconscious and you have access to an AED, you may be instructed to use it. While operating an unfamiliar piece of medical equipment may seem intimidating, AEDs are generally designed to be user-friendly. Their displays normally deliver simple step-by-step instructions.
Finally, if the heart attack victim has stopped breathing, you may be directed to administer CPR. This involves checking to make sure the victim’s airway is clear, compressing his chest with your hands 30 times, and then placing your mouth over his and delivering two breaths. If you have no CPR training, you may be advised to give chest compressions only. Continue CPR or compressions according to the emergency care provider’s instructions until the medical team arrives.
The prevailing wisdom these days is two give two aspirin while you're waiting on the ambulance, if the patient is conscious and able to swallow.
Of course, the first priority, regardless, is to call 911 (in the US) or the general emergency number where you are. Make sure you mention the patient is having chest pain, and also find out if the person has had heart trouble before, or has had general chest pain in the past. This will help the EMTs treat the patient more effectively, and they can give the hospital a heads-up before they arrive so the team can be ready for the patient.
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