What Should Christian Eriksen’s Cardiac Arrest Teach Us?

Gregg Lord, MS, NRP, writes about the lessons learned during Christian Eriksen's cardiac event seen around the world.

As many around the world watched the UEFA Euro 2020 match between Denmark and Finland on Saturday, it was a shocking turn of events as Danish player Christian Eriksen suddenly collapsed in cardiac arrest on the pitch. He literally was running along and fell forward to the ground. Courtesy of the rapid recognition and medical response, it appears that Mr. Eriksen will recover and apparently neurologically intact. But there are other lessons to be learned from the response visualized by millions of people around the world in real time.

Related: MedStar (TX) Introduces New CPR Education Program to Help Improve Cardiac Arrest Survival

In this age of Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms, all of which provide immediate streaming of real-time events, it is important to learn from such public events. First, the affirmation that the public, in this case other players, are more than capable of recognizing an emergency than we give them credit for. The players were immediate in their calling for medical assistance, even before the referee had recognized the need, including clearing Mr. Eriksen’s airway and starting CPR. As we all know, seconds matter in sudden cardiac arrest and in this case, we will likely never know how important those few seconds were. Secondly, this incident demonstrates with absolute clarity, the need for CPR education and readily available automatic external defibrillators across society. According to media reports, Mr. Eriksen had ROSC with a single defibrillation post CPR. There is nothing new about this but certainly bears repeating and discussing across the EMS community.

Related: Updated CPR Guidelines Address Physical and Emotional Recovery

Thirdly, and maybe a new lesson for U.S. EMS operations, EMS needs to take a cue from Mr. Eriksen’s teammates who formed a wall around him as he lay dying on the field to create some level of privacy. Imagine if they had not. His family, including his two children, would have been likely to see, repeatedly, the agonizing minutes of his death. The lesson for EMS and all first responder organizations is that privacy is important and should be maintained whenever possible. That means that organizations need to plan to provide privacy. It is not uncommon in Europe to see privacy curtains put up at motor vehicle crashes to prevent onlookers from seeing the injured or deceased. Yet, I have never seen such deployment in America. Usually, you only see a sheet placed over the deceased. Imagine the repeated trauma inflicted on the family who will likely see those pictures again and again. It is time we plan to protect our patient’s privacy.

Related: Dispatch-Assisted CPR

Lastly, the value of well-trained EMS providers can not be underestimated. Although this high-profile event had a physician on scene, well-trained EMS providers are seen managing the patient care with experienced hands and protocols reflective of their daily operations. Being good at managing critical medical events is a matter of practice. Additionally, the amount of press regarding the successful resuscitation of Mr. Eriksen has done more to promote CPR education and defibrillator placement than any event of recent times.

The role of EMS is to not only to respond to calls for assistance, but to do everything in our power to reduce suffering within our communities. Learning from and leveraging the fortunate outcome of Mr. Eriksen’s event to save another life is appropriate.

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