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    Top 5 CPR Movie Moments That We Love to Hate

    Dr. Mary Williams, RN, DC

    About the author

    Dr. Mary Williams, RN, DC

    Dr. Mary Williams, R.N., D.C is a Doctor of Chiropractic with an extensive background as a Registered Nurse and experienced Core Instructor for the American Heart Association. She has over 30 years of hands-on medical and instructional experience.

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    You may have noticed in my last few posts how much I love movies and television. In fact, the only thing I love MORE than movies and television is teaching people about the necessity for CPR. So you can imagine how crazy it makes me when movies get CPR and First Aid skills utterly WRONG. In fact, it's gotten to the point where the moment someone in the movie I'm watching needs emergency medical attention, I almost can't watch. Nine times out of ten, I just end up shouting at the screen, "NOOOO! YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG!" Then I remember they can't hear me. What's important here is that Hollywood seems to botch most of their attempts to depict CPR and First Aid skills in movies. This bothers me so much that I've decided to compile a list of the top five CPR movie moments that drive me nuts:

    1.) Casino Royale

    Scene: The Poisoning Scene

    What Happens: James Bond, international man of mystery: lethal, cunning, fearless…and completely incapable of working a portable defibrillator. Now, I'm cutting him some slack because he did happen to be poisoned AND experiencing ventricular tachycardia (rapid heartbeat caused by improper electrical activity in the heart), which would probably make what he was attempting pretty difficult. Still, he makes a rookie mistake when he doesn't check the leads on the defibrillator before attaching the pads to his chest, a mistake that very nearly costs him his life. In addition (it's a bit hard to see, so you might have missed it), he places the second defibrillator pad on the wrong side of his body! He correctly places one beneath his left collar bone, but then places the other pad under his arm on the SAME side of his body. ACK! Wrong! Big mistake!

    What He Should Have Done: When removing the pads, always make sure the leads are attached. If you are using a portable defibrillator with one-use pads, ALWAYS make sure they are appropriately hooked up to the leads. Once you place them on the victim's body (because I highly doubt you'd be doing this to yourself) make sure that the second pad goes under the arm on the OPPOSITE side of the first pad. This is what creates the ZAP that will hopefully shock the heart back into normal sinus rhythm.

    2.) Mission Impossible III

    Scene: Ethan Electrocutes Himself

    What Happens: The scene in which Ethan Hunt electrocutes himself to stop a charge from going off in his brain and then becomes unresponsive is probably one of the most irritating scenes in all of cinema for me. Why? Because Julia is supposed to be a NURSE! As a medical professional, she should know how rescue breaths should be given, and how many compressions should be given for every two rescue breaths. Apparently, I have a little too much faith in Hollywood's fictional medical professionals. First, she doesn't check to see if he has a pulse or if he's breathing before she begins CPR. Next, she fails to tilt Ethan's head back before giving him two VERY quick rescue breaths. At one point, she counts off the number of compressions, gets to 15, and then STOPS to give him two more incorrect rescue breaths. Definitely not correct CPR! Not to mention, after having a charge implanted in your head, being electrocuted, and then being resuscitated, Ethan would be in no condition to sit up, let alone point and fire a weapon (but now I'm just being picky).

    What She Should Have Done: Always check your patient's Circulation, Airway, and Breathing before you begin CPR (just think C.A.B.). When you give a rescue breath, tilt the head back by lifting the chin with one hand and pushing down on the forehead with the other to ensure that the breaths go into the lungs and don't just stay in the person's mouth. Finally, when giving compressions, make sure that you give no less than 30 compressions for any two breaths. If you are with another person, you should give up to 100 compressions a minute while the other person takes care of the rescue breathing.

    3.) Jurassic Park

    The Scene: Dr. Grant Performs CPR on Tim After Tim Is Electrocuted

    What Happens: Once again, we have an electrocution victim who needs to be resuscitated. Dr. Grant frantically attempts to perform CPR on Tim, but there are a few issues with Dr. Grant's form. Once again, there's no head tilt, and this scene actually does a good job of illustrating why you shouldn't skip this step. You can see Tim's cheeks puff out as they fill with air, so you know that air isn't going anywhere near the poor boy's lungs. This scene also depicts what is probably one of the worst compression-to-breath ratios I've ever seen. Dr. Grant gives maybe six compressions, then goes straight to giving two breaths. He gives another four compressions, then goes to give two more breaths when Tim miraculously recovers. I say it's miraculous because, in any real life emergency, this attempt at CPR would do absolutely nothing to help the victim.

    What He Should Have Done: Like Julia, Dr. Grant needs to remember to tilt the head back before giving rescue breaths. He also needs to adhere to the proper compression-to-breath ratio. Doing CPR incorrectly can exhaust you, and it really does nothing to help the victim recover.

    4.) The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

    The Scene: Peeta Hits the Forcefield

    What Happens: Poor Peeta. This guy just can't seem to catch a break. He was grievously wounded in the first film, and now this. In this scene, he's going along, minding his own business, chopping through the forest, when ZAP! He hits a force field, which happens to sound and look just like being electrocuted. (Noticing a Hollywood pattern here? I think I am.) I must say, seeing Katniss check to see if he's breathing came as a relief. Of course, then Finnick jumps in and ruins the moment. As usual in these films, there's no head tilt; I've come to expect that by now. Then, after Finnick gives two rescue breaths, he immediately starts giving compressions. There's no checking for a heartbeat; he just hops right over there and starts plugging away at those chest compressions. It isn't until he finishes his first round of CPR that he finally decides to check Peeta's heart beat, but I'm just happy he checked at all. I'll give him extra points for that! At first, Finnick seems to be the world's slowest compression-giver. I wanted to tell him to give it a little more hustle, but he does toward the end of the scene. Like the others, Finnick doesn't come close to the correct compression-to-breath ratio, but he is the first of our offenders to give compressions that are way too shallow.

    What He Should Have Done: At the risk of sounding like a broken record, you need to give 30 compressions to every two rescue breaths. Plain and simple. While you're giving compressions, make sure that you push the chest to a depth of about two inches, and keep the pace as regular as possible. Still, Katniss and Finnick did manage to check for both breathing and circulation so I have to give them some credit. Two out of three is better than none at all.

    5.) Sandlot

    The Scene: Wendy Peffercorn Gives CPR to Squints

    What Happened: This humorous scene depicts what is probably the most manipulative use of CPR I've ever seen. "Squints," more the victim of unrequited love than of any true medical emergency, leaps off of the diving board into the deep end of the community pool. His actions are a desperate attempt to gain the attention (and the rescues breaths) of one attractive lifeguard, Miss Wendy Peffercorn. Squints, who can't swim, gives Miss Peffercorn a coy wave and then recklessly leaps into the water, where he, perhaps not surprisingly, sinks like a brick. Miss Peffercorn, clearly on duty, leaps in, saves him, and starts to administer rescue breaths. I'm actually pretty satisfied with Wendy's execution. She checks for breathing, checks his heartbeat, and even tilts his head back by pressing on his forehead with her hand. She doesn't jump right into compressions, because she knows she doesn't need them. All in all, she does a great job! Unfortunately for Miss Peffercorn, it is entirely unnecessary. "Squints" (who was faking the whole time) wraps his arms around her head and gives her a big, sloppy, wet kiss. Miss Peffercorn, understandably upset, grabs him and ejects him from the pool area. This is not really so much a critique of form, but more of a personal "Ew, gross," thing on my end. This kid just weirds me out.

    What She Should Have Done: Miss Peffercorn, you did EXACTLY what I would have done to Squints, both during and after the incident. I applaud your perfect form while administering rescue breaths to Squints and your self-restraint in dealing with him afterward. What you should do now is go and teach the rest of our CPR offenders all that you know about CPR and administering rescue breaths. They could definitely use your help resuscitating their friends (just make sure they're not faking, okay?).


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