Bystander efforts save lives, prevent disability

By Laura Mize • Published: August 15th, 2017
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Studies and anecdotal evidence have long shown that having a bystander willing and able to help in a medical emergency can save lives in the crucial moments before trained medical personnel can arrive. New data on long-term outcomes for people who suffer cardiac arrest outside of a hospital setting show there are a number of other positive outcomes that can result when someone lends a helping hand.

Among people who survived at least 30 days after having a heart attack, those helped by a bystander had lower rates of brain damage from lack of oxygen. They also were less likely to be admitted to a nursing home or to die from any cause in the year afterward. Just how low varied based on the type of aid administered, but the advantages were clear. People who went without such help had significantly higher rates of all these unfortunate outcomes.

Escaping such consequences means patients are more likely to return to their normal lives. It also means not having to bear the often overwhelming financial burden brought on by nursing home care or a lifelong disability that results from brain damage.

If you see someone who seems to be having a heart incident, the best ways to assist are to administer CPR or to use an automated defibrillator to help the heart regain some function.

Interestingly, the researchers also found that over the 11-year time period studied, which ended in 2012, the number of people assisted by a bystander each year increased by 13 percent. Being at the right place at the right time, and being willing to help a stranger, could make a lifesaving difference.