To Recover Persons Apparently Drowned.
Or, all the sad accidents that may often be avoided by a knowledge of their prevention, drowning seems the most lamentable. Its occurrence, too, is the most frequent. A knowledge, then, of how to restore the drowning to life, and to renew the suspended animation. is equally important to people as a knowledge of how to swim.
Drowning persons die by what is called asphyxia. The air being shut off from the lungs, breathing stops, and the immediate accumulation of carbonic acid in the blood paralyzes the nervous system, and insensibility immediately follows. The heart continues to beat, however, from five to twenty minutes after the occurrence of insensibility and apparent death.
Recovery may take place at any time before the heart ceases to beat, and has been brought about in some cases even after this organ has become still. It has taken place, in some few instances, as late as an hour after being under water, but it can scarcely be expected, even under the best treatment, later than twenty minutes from the time of submersion; and even as late as this, the chances are much against restoration. ~several main facts should never be lost sight of: remember, first, to empty the water out of the person's stomach and lungs; second, to remove the patient as little away from the spot where rescued as possible; third, to go to work at once, unless the atmosphere of winter prevent; remember, finally, to keep at work long after hope seems gone, to many, of restoring the person to life.
Roll the patient over on to his stomach, with a parcel of clothing (see Fig. 150), a barrel or box under him, and press firmly on his back, while an assistant pulls forward the tongue and clears the mouth of mucus. Repeat the pressure once or twice, and then roll the patient on to his back (Fig. 151) with the clothes rolled up resting under his lowest ribs. Loosen all clothing about the neck, chest, and waist.
Let the assistant extend the arms in the direction of the body above the head, bringing them as near together as possible, while you blow into the patient's mouth. Now, straddling the body, replace the arms and press firmly with your own weight upon the sides and front of the lower chest, as if to press out something from the lungs; suddenly let go. Repeat these motions of the arms and chest perseveringly, ten or fifteen times a minute.
While thus engaged, assistants should remove the wet clothing, wipe the body dry, and, by vigorous friction of the skin, endeavor to restore warmth to the surface. Hot water bottles, ff they can be procured, are very serviceable in securing this result. Neither the weather nor place may allow of this warmth. When, however, the asphyxia has been relieved, warmth should be abundantly supplied and light stimulants given. Avoid the warm bath. Rubbing with coarse cloths answers well in the absence of hot water bottles.
As soon as the patient can swallow, give warm milk, beef tea, or coffee with a tablespoonful of some spirit. Volatile stimulants like ammonia, held before the nose, are very serviceable, even before the patient breathes.
Sleep should now be encouraged, but a watch must be kept, in cases of prolonged asphyxia, lest a relapse occur.
How long a person may be under water and yet recover, is not definitely known, although the duration depends on the amount of air confined in the chest just prior to the immersion.
Unless you are well acquainted with heart or lung action, you may be deceived as to the existence of life ; persevere, therefore, in the worst cases, fully an hour, since the heart may beat so feebly as to escape your notice, and yet, finally, rally.
It is doubtful if a heart that has actually stopped for five minutes can be resuscitated.
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copyright 2005, J. Crow Company, New Ipswich NH 03071