Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is a life-saving procedure that should be known more widely than it is. It has helped countless people around the world and European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti has decided to show us online how it could also save lives in space.
On Earth, CPR relies on us using our bodyweight to press on a person's chest and deliver compressions that will keep the heart beating. During hands-only CPR, these compressions are repeated 100 to 120 times a minute. But you can’t use your weight on the International Space Station.
Due to microgravity, simply performing a compression will push you away from the person's body. That’s the third law of dynamics: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. So you need to find a way to anchor yourself.
“My favorite technique is to go upside down and push off with my feet from the ‘ceiling’,” Cristoforetti explains in the video.
The CPR bench that Cristoforetti and colleagues practice on also comes with a strap that can allow the rescuer to tether themselves to it, should they prefer to remain upright. They perform CPR with rescue breaths, alternating 30 compressions with two breaths from the resuscitation mask. Before starting again.
The current expedition has a medical doctor on board, Kjell Lindgren, but this is not always the case. So the team regularly trains in CPR, to be ready just in case.