Rona Barrett

Rona Barrett

An email came into my inbox recently. It was the type that implores us to pass on the information to at least 10 people, and it’s so compelling we want to do what we’re told.

It was titled Self CPR. Originally, it was titled Cough CPR with information from Dr. Patrick Teefy, Cardiology Head at the Nuclear Medicine Institute University Hospital, London, Ontario, Canada.

It outlined what you do if you find yourself after a tough day really tired, upset and or frustrated – and alone.

Then suddenly, you have a severe pain in your chest that goes into your arm and up into your jaw. This means your heart is beating improperly and you only have about 10 seconds left before losing consciousness.

What to do?

Start coughing repeatedly and very vigorously, taking a deep breath before each deep and prolonged cough about every two seconds without let-up.

It explained that deep breaths get oxygen into the lungs and coughing squeezes the heart and keeps the blood circulating. The squeezing pressure on the heart also helps it to regain a normal rhythm. You do this until help arrives, or until the heart is felt to be beating normally again.

I let it percolate in my brain for a bit and when I had the chance to get back to it I reread it. “You do this until help arrives, or until the heart is felt to be beating normally again.”

Wait a minute. How would help magically arrive if you’re alone and you only have about 10 seconds? And how in heck will you know if your coughing has gotten your heart beating normally again? And do you just resume your day?

There were too many questions I felt needed answering before I could pass it on, so I morphed back to Reporter Rona and dug into it deeper.

It turns out that this email has been going around since 1999. I found out too that Dr. Patrick Teefy is a real – five-star rated – cardiologist. That’s good news.

Here’s the bad news. The American Heart Association doesn’t endorse it. Harvard Medical School doesn’t either, nor the New York Times, nor does Mended Heart, to name just a few.

Apparently, the information came from a professional textbook on emergency cardiac care and is used in emergency situations by professional staff in settings such as a cardiac catheterization laboratory where patients are conscious and constantly monitored (i.e., an ECG machine) with a nurse or physician coaching the patient.

The best strategy if we find ourselves in this predicament, says Harvard Medical School’s Deepak L. Bhatt, M.D., M.P.H., is first stay calm. Call 911. Then chew one regular-strength (or four low-dose 81-mg) aspirin. Lie down.

He goes on to say though, “If you feel like you’re going to pass out, there is no harm in trying forceful coughing to try to terminate a possible arrhythmia.”

Thanks, Doc. I guess we’re back to square one and we have to decide for ourselves!

As for me, I’m calling 911 and let the professionals take care of my heart. And maybe I’ll cough until they get there.

Until next time ... keep thinking the good thoughts.

Senior activist and local resident Rona Barrett is the driving force behind the Golden Inn & Village (GIV), the area’s first affordable senior living facility. GIV strives to bring services to seniors so they may age in place. Reach her at Visit for more information.



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