We’ve all seen the current medical television shows where a patient is “coded” and receives cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Someone presses on his chest, another breathes into his mouth, medications are given, and sometimes an electrical shock is administered (usually preceded by somebody yelling, “Clear!”). By the end of the show, the patient who received the CPR is practically skipping out of the hospital, good as new. It makes for great drama, so it’s great for TV.
The reality is quite different. People may believe that CPR is a simple activity which is usually successful, but the fact is a patient receiving CPR in the hospital has only a 17% chance of recovery. If the CPR is received in a nursing home, the chance of recovery is only 3%. Yes, CPR can work, but it works best if started within a few minutes after your heart and lungs stop working and if you are in generally good health. It does not work as well if you are older or weaker and/or if you have longstanding health problems. And even if CPR is successful, you still may have other problems. You will be put on a breathing machine because your lungs will be weakened and you will need to be in an intensive care unit. You may have damage to your chest and ribs and you may have brain damage from oxygen deprivation. You don’t see that on TV.
I don’t share this information to frighten you, but to be a reality check and to encourage you to talk with your health care provider about CPR and its pros and cons in your particular case. Some people will ask for it, while others will freely choose not to extend the dying process. Whatever your choice, it should be yours to make.
M. Jane Markley RN, MEd, FACHE is a consultant with over 30 years of experience in healthcare and is the president of M Jane Markley Consulting, LLC.