Over the last few years I have been delighted to see the number of Public Access Defibrillators increase. They are appearing outside many more shops, libraries and community centres as well as in schools.
Often, but not exclusively, recognised by the bright yellow cabinets they are housed in, they are a welcome sight. How many people though are aware that they are for the use of the general public and that anyone can access them?
The simple answer is “Yes”!
Fabrice Muamba almost died in April and would have done so without an AED close at hand, and his coaches and the consultant cardiaologist who knew how to operate one.
30,000 people a year in the UK have a cardiac arrest out of hospital. Statistically if you have a cardiac arrest out of hospital your chances of surviving are poor; less than 10% people will survive. This appalling statistic hasn’t changed much in many years.
However with prompt intervention with an automated external defibrillator device and good basic CPR, your chances of survival go up to about 74%.
Many employers are often put off purchasing an AED on the basis of cost of the device, and the time that it takes to train staff to use one. However, the machines themselves are very reliable and easy to use.
Sudden cardiac arrest is a leading cause of death and you have a responsibility for ensuring safety to your staff, visitors and customers so why not invest in an AED? After all, you invest in fire extinguishers and hope you will never need to use those either!
Defibrillators are the magic boxes that deliver a controlled electric shock that helps to get a heart that has gone into an irregular lethal rhythm back into a normal one. Increasingly more of them are now being placed in strategic locations across the country; in shopping malls, airports, businesses, factories and offices. It is estimated that there are approximately 10,000 of them out and about in the UK.
Historically only those who have been trained to use one could do so. However since the latest guidelines on resuscitation have been published there is a greater emphasis on anyone being able to use one if it is available, although obviously having some training helps.
Ok I hear you say, what do they do, how do they work and are they really easy to use?
The heart pumps blood around the human body, delivering oxygen to all its vital organs. When someone has a heart attack, very often the damage causes their heart to go into an abnormal rhythm, the most common of which is ventricular fibrillation. This rhythm means that the heart cannot pump blood round the body, and if left untreated, the patient will die. Every minute that the heart is not pumping, the chances of survival reduce by about 10%.
Research has shown that if an AED can be attached to a person whose heart has stopped and a shock delivered within the first few minutes of an arrest, the chances of success are high, at about 70%. This is obviously good news as approximately 30,000 suffer a cardiac arrest, where the heart stops, each year. By the way, without an AED, chances are more like 2% to 5%.
AEDs are very simple to use and the good news is that anyone can use them. Just turn them on and listen carefully to the automated instructions, which will tell you how and when to activate the device, and when to continue CPR.
Next time you find a collapsed non breathing casualty try CPR and if there is an AED about don’t be afraid to use it. It isn’t possible to hurt someone by using it. The machines are programmed only to deliver shocks to those who are in a shockable rhythm like ventricular fibrillation and will not discharge a shock unless that is the case.
So have a go and remember you might just save a life!