When people’s hearts stop beating, they lose consciousness in seconds. If standing, they fall. If sitting, they slump over. Their bodies jerk, and reflexively, they gasp.
Those breaths are deceptive. They can trick physicians and nurses into thinking a hospital patient is experiencing a seizure, not cardiac arrest. And that misinterpretation can delay a shot at resuscitation.
“Those are the two things we really want everyone to remember: the person becomes unconscious, and they’re not breathing normally,” says Clifton Callaway, a professor of Emergency Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. “If anyone is unconscious and not breathing normally, think about cardiac arrest, and get on the chest and start chest compressions.”