Heart attacks can prove fatal but urgent medical attention can help people to survive. Key to survival is keeping oxygen levels high even when the heart has stopped beating. Peter Safar, an Austrian anaesthetist, developed a way to do this in the 1950s. He established a sequence of tilting a person’s head back to open up their airways, followed by mouth-to-mouth breathing, known as the 'kiss of life', and chest compressions. This sequence of airways, breathing and compression is known as the A-B-C system of resuscitation. It forms the basis of cardiopulmonary resuscitation, known as CPR. Today CPR is commonly used in modern emergency medicine and helps to save lives. Safar first saw the need for resuscitation when working as a nurse on the front line during World War II. He later worked with a doll maker to build mannequins for CPR training, and these are still used today.
Written by Deborah Oakley
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