So often in life we only award efforts that bring about success. Fear of failure permeates the culture we live in, and most people only stick out their necks if they are guaranteed the outcome is bright and full of gold stars, easy accomplishments, and success. This has created a world full of people scared to try anything that might fail.
As potential rescuers, it is important to fight off the mindset of success and failure. The goal of any CPR education should be to cultivate the bravery to try. The second your knees hit the pavement next to a victim, your compressions buy them time and the chance to live. Bravery is having a quality of mind that says, “I will help this person regardless of my fear, and regardless of the outcome.”
The following letter was written by one of Student CPR’s leading educators, paramedic Roy Shaw. He wrote to Lynn, a lay rescuer who attempted to revive her neighbor by administering CPR. The neighbor did not survive and Lynn wanted to know if she failed.
It sounds like you’ve had a rough couple of days. First, because a neighbor and potentially their friends and family members are experiencing a living nightmare right now, and secondly, because you may be feeling like you did not do enough, or do it well enough.
These feelings are very normal, and not because you did anything wrong. It’s just normal to feel sad that the situation did not turn out the way we would have wanted it to. The fact that you did any CPR at all means that you gave this gentleman a chance at survival. Please remember, CPR is not designed to save lives directly. Its purpose is to slow down the process of moving from clinical death to biological death in order to possibly intervene with advanced life support and buy more time to get the person to the hospital. CPR can sometimes help the body respond to the medications and electrical therapy but it does not take away the reason the person went into cardiac arrest in the first place in most cases. There can be so many reasons why a patient goes into cardiac arrest and why they seemingly don’t respond. It’s important to remember that your neighbor was already clinically dead when you arrived by their side. You gave them and their family members a wonderful gift. You moved out of your comfort zone and gave this person a second chance at survival. Something they wouldn’t have had if you wouldn’t have tried. The fact that your neighbor did not survive cardiac arrest does not take anything away from your efforts and your compassion.
You acted bravely and selflessly. That is not the norm in our culture. You are the exception and I say well done! Please, be at peace knowing that the most experienced and effective rescuers don’t always achieve the outcome that others wish would happen. True rescuers try their best to make a possibility for a tomorrow, regardless of the outcome and make the world a more loving place and show the world compassion by doing so.
Be at peace knowing that you did a wonderful act of love and compassion.