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Would you know what to do if somebody suddenly collapsed right in front of you?

A cardiac arrest means the heart has unexpectedly stopped. If someone is in cardiac arrest, they stop breathing or breathing normally, the heart is unable to act as a pump and the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain and the rest of the body stops. This can happen for many reasons, but loss of the electrical coordination that controls the normal heartbeat is usually responsible, and it usually happens suddenly and without any warning.

A sudden cardiac arrest can happen to anyone and at any age. Every year in Wales, over 6,000 people will have a cardiac arrest outside of a hospital setting. Approximately 80% will happen in the home.

If someone suddenly has a cardiac arrest in front of you – you could be their only chance of survival.

Knowing how to do CPR and how to use a defibrillator can help you act more effectively in what can be a very stressful situation.

Take a few minutes to learn or refresh your CPR skills- they could be some of the most important minutes you spend, and could help you save a precious life.

Please encourage all your family and friends to do the same.

Heart attack or a cardiac arrest?

A heart attack and a cardiac arrest are not the same thing but both are emergency situations and you should always call 999 straight away. Learn to understand the difference at the British Heart Foundation.

How can cardiopulmonary resuscitation help?

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) is a basic first aid procedure that anyone can do to ‘buy some time’ to keep someone alive until the ambulance service arrives. By performing chest compressions, pressing hard and fast in the centre of the chest, at a rate of 120 beats per minute, you take over the role of the heart by helping to pump, blood and oxygen around the body. You need to press hard, so do not worry if you break a rib. With CPR, the person in cardiac arrest, can be revived. Without CPR, the person will die.

CPR is one step in the Chain of Survival. The ‘Chain of Survival’ describes the four crucial steps that need to be done when someone has a cardiac arrest in the community.

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chain of survival

Save a Life and learn CPR and defibrillation skills

By taking a few minutes to learn the basic CPR skills, you can give someone the chance of life. It could be someone in your family, a friend, a neighbour, a colleague or a passerby.

A cardiac arrest is an emergency, but by using some basic knowledge and skills, you can at least double a person’s chance of surviving a cardiac arrest. Currently only 30% – 40% of people who suffer a cardiac arrest in the community will receive bystander CPR.

At Save a Life Cymru we are encouraging everybody in Wales to learn CPR skills, either online or as face-to-face training so that you, your family and the wider community become confident of the steps you need to take when a person has a cardiac arrest.

CPR can be lifesaving and must be started immediately.

A person’s chances of surviving a cardiac arrest in the community decreases by up to 10% with every passing minute that CPR is not started. The longer the delay, the worse is the outcome. By performing CPR, you are taking over the work of the heart. You should keep going with CPR until professional help arrives, the patient is revived, or you are too exhausted to continue.

How can a defibrillator help?

An Automated External Defibrillator (AEDs) also known as a defibrillator or a defib is a device that can deliver an electric shock to a person who is in cardiac arrest. It is simple and safe to use and you do not need any training. It is a very clever device and will tell you exactly what to do and when and how to deliver a safe shock.

Defibrillators are found in communities across Wales. Many defibrillators are often located, on external walls, in heated cabinet to keep the defibrillator battery warm during the winter months. The cabinet allows for 24hr access in an emergency.

When you dial 999 the ambulance call handler will instruct you where the nearest registered defibrillator is located and, if locked will give you the code to open the cabinet.

For more information about defibrillators and cabinets please contact SaveALifeCymru@wales.nhs.uk

Registering a defibrillator on the National Defibrillator Network (the Circuit)

All defibrillators should be registered on the National Defibrillator Network (the Circuit). This will make sure that defibrillators are available to the ambulance service to support 999 calls in the community. For more information about The National Defibrillator Network, please visit thecircuit.uk.

Case studies

Kyle, John and Anne’s survival story
Kyle's quick response helps save John's life.
Phil from Wrexham
Phil Nunnerley survived 2 cardiac arrests and owes his life to CPR.
Kevan's story
Kevan Roberts’s life was saved by his wife.
Gwyn's story
Gwyn Roberts’s life was saved by the kindness of strangers.
Len's story
Save a Life Cymru’s Chair Dr Len Nokes and wife Sarah’s own personal story.
Fiona's story
Paramedic Fiona Lambrecht on the importance of CPR to help save a life.

Support after doing CPR

Survival rates with early use of CPR and defibrillation can be as high as 50%. However, performing CPR may not always result in a successful and happy ending. If you have been affected by any of the personal stories here or have your own concerns and difficulties the Samaritans can offer a safe and confidential space for someone to talk about how they’re feeling.

Samaritans volunteers are available 24/7. You can call for free day or night on 116 123 or call in Welsh on 0808 164 0123 for free every day between 7pm-11pm.

If you’d prefer to write things down, you can email

 jo@samaritans.org.

Save a Life Cymru partners

Save a Life Cymru is a partnership  ( see below) between a wide range of organisations from the public, charity and third sectors. They can offer an array of information, guidance and support about CPR, defibrillators, how to keep your heart healthy, and some also offer bereavement counselling.

Please see our partner list below for more information.

For more information about CPR and defibrillation, visit the Resuscitation Council UK website