on Dec 22, 2012
So we’re trapped in a freezer. Larry is having some sort of unspecified heart trouble. He might die. Me might already be effectively dead. If he dies, then after some unknown (but short) interval he will rise again as zombiehulk. Lilly is performing CPR on him and wants help. Kenny wants to bash his brains in with one of these salt bricks.
So… what do you do?
The problem here is that the situation is constructed around a few common misconceptions regarding heart failure and CPR. Abnaxis posted a comment in Episode 9, which I will quote here:
[…] you also need to understand that the purpose of (civilian) CPR is not to restart the victim’s heart, it is to keep blood flowing to their brain to keep them alive long enough for the professionals with defibrillators and epinephrin to show up and take over. That is why the first priority should always, always be to call pramedics, even if you have to pause resuscitating to do it (preferably you tell someone else to do it while you start resuscitating).
For my reference, I only really have my training, although the first section of this wiki article says what I am going for. Virtually every other CPR training material says the same thing: the purpose of CPR is to keep people alive for a few minutes longer, because brain damage starts after 4 minutes of no circulation, and the average EMT response time is 10-15 minutes.
As for the article you quoted, that is intended for medical professionals in a hospital setting. Doctors don’t get to wait for medical professionals to show up, they are the medical professionals, with the training and knowledge required to recognize the (extremely few) cases in which CPR might have a chance to restart a stopped heart.
All of these points do not apply to the situation we are talking about. Lee, et. al., are certainly not medical professionals. There are no EMTs alive, let alone any coming. […]
For my part, I didn’t know any of this. I took the situation at face value, that the CPR could plausibly revive him and we were simply refusing to risk our lives to save his. But regardless of whether or not CPR can actually save his life, all three characters believe that it can and they don’t have access to Wikipedia. Like shocking a flatline , it’s a bit of medical nonsense that has permeated popular culture because of its usefulness as a storytelling device.
There’s no way for them to know that they’re wrong, so they react to the scenario just like most uninformed people do. On the other hand, This is made more complex by the fact that there’s some combination of actions that will result in Larry opening his eyes just as the block comes down. So in the reality we see here, Larry is unrealistically revived by CPR. This makes a mess of the discussion among the audience, since the “what would you do in this situation” is so undefined. What would I do in this situation in the real world (where CPR only staves off brain death until the paramedics arrive) could differ from what I would do in this world (where CPR revives someone with no pulse) and we don’t know the parameters of how zombification works or how long it takes.
Also worth reading is this comment by anaphysik, regarding how nitroglycerin pills work.