The lighter side of CPR

We often take for granted knowledge about how the body works and what we should do when something goes wrong. But, our knowledge has grown from trial and error and through scientific research.

Science continues to increase our knowledge and as that happens we change practice according to what we have learned.

Some History! We don't make this stuff up. And we do our best to verify the information. If you have another anecdote or if you spot something that needs to be changed, please send us an email and let us know.


Did You know ....


The first bag-mask devices were fireplace bellows?
In the 1500s fireplace bellows were inserted into the victims mouth to blow in hot air and smoke; a method that was used for almost 300 years. This was the forerunner of the modern Bag-Mask device. top

  IN THE 1500'S!

Lifeguards once used horses for CPR?
In the early 1800s lifeguards kept a horse tied to the lifeguard station. After a drowning rescue the lifeguard would hoist the victim onto the horse and run him along the beach. The bouncing would compress the chest and provide some circulation and ventilation. top

“Blowing smoke up your ...” was an early form of CPR?
Smoke was first blown into an animal bladder, then into the victim's rectum. It was used successfully by North American Indians and brought to England in the mid 1700s.  When later research showed that a few ounces of tobacco could kill a dog the practice of fumigation was abandoned. top

Warming the body was one of the early methods of resuscitation?
Since a dead body soon cools to room temperature, an early resuscitation technique was to warm (or re-warm) the victim.  Warm ashes, burning excrement, or hot water placed directly on the body were all attempted. top

CPR was first reported in the Bible?
The first resuscitation was Elijah's mouth to mouth in about 800 BC (Bible, 2 Kings, iv, 34.).  “...And he went up, and lay upon the child, and put his mouth upon his mouth, and his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hands; and he stretched himself upon the child; and the flesh of the child waxed warm."  top

Tongue stretching was a form of CPR?
A method recommended in France was to hold the mouth open while rhythmically pulling on the tongue. top

Electrical shocks were first used for resuscitating drowning victims?
Drowning was a leading cause of sudden death in the late 1700s.  In 1788 Dr. Thomas Kite published “An Essay on the Recovery of the Apparently Dead”, in which he described a portable device designed to apply electric shock, and documented 125 cases of successful resuscitation.  top

The first mention of “response times” was in 1788?
In Dr. Thomas Kite’s “An Essay on the Recovery of the Apparently Dead”, he concluded that the most important factor leading to "recovery of the apparently dead, is the length of time that elapses before the proper remedies can be applied." top

The first “ambulances” were hung between horses?
The Normans organized the first known dedicated patient transportation service in Europe, transporting battle victims on a litter strung between two horses. top

Napoleon’s physician first named the “ambulance”?
King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain introduced the “ambulancia”, field hospitals, to treat wounded soldiers.  Soon after, Napoleon's personal physician Dominique Larrey, began to use the first "ambulance volantes" (flying hospitals); horse-drawn 2 and 4 wheel covered carriages.  top

The first paramedics were in Miami?
Dr. Eugene Nagel, an electrical engineer, worked with the Miami Fire Department and the Florida Heart Association to develop the first portable telemetry unit (wighing 54 pounds) which could be used by specially trained "rescue firemen”, and trained the first class of paramedics. top

CPR can be done on animals?
CPR and chest compressions are taught for dogs, cats, and birds.  top

The first defibrillation of a person was in 1947?
In 1947, Beck et al performed the first successful human defibrillation using specially designed internal cardiac paddles. He used 2 110-volt, 1.5-amp AC current shocks to resuscitate a 14-year-old boy who had become pulseless during elective chest surgery. top

A defibrillator was first used to resuscitate a cardiac arrest victim in 1957?
A 42 year old man arrived in the emergency room at 2 a.m. complaining of indigestion, and in the midst of undressing for his exam, suddenly collapsed with ventricular fibrillation. The doctor ran to the 11th floor to retrieve the experimental device and successfully defibrillate the patient – who lived for 18 years.  top

The first portable defibrillator was built in Belfast, Northern Ireland?
In 1967 Dr. Frank Pantridge first showed that victims of sudden cardiac death could be successfully resuscitated outside of the hospital. He sent an ambulance staffed with a resuscitation team to the scene of chest pain patients. An AC defibrillator, powered by two 12-volt car batteries using an inverter, weighed 150 pounds and was mounted in the ambulance. He reported on ten patients suffering cardiac arrest who were successfully resuscitated. top

Widespread CPR was one of President JFK’s visions?
In the early 1960s, John F Kennedy proclaimed that America would put a man on the moon within 10 years and that “cardiopulmonary resuscitation would save thousands of hearts too good to die”. top

Frankenstein slowed CPR research for over 100 years?
As resuscitation efforts were more successful, there was more question about when people were really dead.  Mary Shelly’s story of a mad scientist who brought a soulless corpse to life was so disturbing and possibly real that research and practice of resuscitation was largely abandoned for a century. top

Edgar Allen Poe wrote about the fears brought upon by new resuscitation techniques?
“The Tell-Tale Heart” is one example of the fears of the times.  Since “death” was now not certain, many were afraid that they might be asleep or in a coma, appear dead, and be buried alive. top