Bystanders hinder rescue effort

On Monday, as a young woman was playing with her children on Main Beach at Byron Bay, a man in distress was brought in from the surf by other swimmers.

The woman, an intensive care nurse, began what she knew was best-practice resuscitation. This meant doing cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) but not mouth-to-mouth.

The woman contacted The Echo after the event and has asked not to be named.

More than 30 bystanders began milling around with some of them shouting out instructions.

It was overwhelming and Im very shaky right now, she said. Its not really good enough for people who live in this environment, near the coast. You need to let people do their job. I know people were trying to help, but it was so distracting I actually stopped to listen, and Id love it if there was some way of getting information out there about current best-practice, because resuscitation has changed over the years and its very different.

The Australian Resuscitation Council guidelines currently recommend two ventilations followed by 30 compressions and state when a rescuer is unwilling or unable to do rescue breathing they should do chest compressions only.

He more than likely had salt water in his lungs so I opened the airways to allow oxygen in. With salt water its the compressions that matter, she said. You tilt the head back, give the compressions and the oxygen enters via the compressions.

Even though Im a trained professional the whole process was difficult with people yelling at me to give mouth-to-mouth, and every time you stop doing compressions you stop the blood circulating.

I know people were trying to help but they actually interfered with my abilities and his rescuers.

Unfortunately the man was declared dead by ambulance officers when they arrived on the scene.

I rang my work as soon as possible and spoke to the critical care educator to confirm Id done the right thing, she said. I didnt know the victim and mouth-to-mouth is not a safe practice unless you have the correct equipment. We should be educating people about resuscitation. If I can educate my own children, then everyone who lives near the beach should try and learn.

The nurse has written a letter to Byron Shire Council asking that emergency equipment be easily accessible on all beaches in the area so that conventional CPR at compression-ventilation ratio of 30:2 can be safely performed.

There will be a report to the Coroner which will decide whether the 58-year-old Melbourne man died due to drowning or a medical condition.

For more information on resuscitation techniques go to

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