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Tom Sharon
Reviving a person from a respiratory or cardiac arrest


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The Code - Reviving a Person

Code is the term that hospital staffers use to describe the act of reviving a person who has stopped breathing (respiratory arrest) and/or whose heart has stopped beating (cardiac arrest). Although the basic details regarding cardiac arrest on the regular floors were covered in this page, I am providing additional information here. The current thinking is that the patient is still alive at this moment because it takes about four to six minutes for the brain to cease its function beyond any hope of waking up. The actual term or phrase used to alert medical, nursing, and respiratory therapy staffers varies from one hospital to another, with code blue, paging Dr. Heart, code 99, and the like being among those used.

For good reasons, the code is one activity that visitors may not observe. First, the person undergoing the code is in a state of near death with a team working feverishly. Your understandable emotional reaction might prevent the staff from focusing on the more important job of saving a life.
 
Second, there is no way an outsider can evaluate the quality and appropriateness of the procedures and intervene. You have no choice but to trust the code team. There is nothing more you can do until they revive the patient and he or she is stable.
 
On the other hand, you can take some measures beforehand to assure that your loved one gets the best possible chance for survival. First, you can make certain that the nurses are checking the crash cart at the beginning of every shift to make sure that it has all the necessary drugs and supplies for a code.
 
Second, you can ask to see if the nurses are testing the defibrillator at the start of each shift to make sure that it is working when needed. The precious minutes lost replacing faulty equipment can make the difference between a person living or dying.
 
Third, you can find out who has responsibility as the first, second, and third responders to a code. Many hospitals do not have an organized code team approach. The announcement blares out over the intercom, and whoever is available comes running. This is unacceptable. During normal business hours, you will get too many people in the room bumping into each other. On the other hand, at 3 A.M. you would be lucky to see one doctor. The standards require an organized response with assigned teams who know what to do and where to go. If there is no such plan in effect, you will need to approach the administration and insist that they organize a code response program.

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