By Nina Radcliff, MD
“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart” Helen Keller. I was told that is why we close our eyes when we pray, cry, kiss, and dream.
So, let’s have a heart-to-heart conversation that may also save our lives. Every year in the United States, over 350,000 people will suffer from sudden cardiac arrest. And when this occurs, there are no truer words than “time is of the essence”; if it is not treated within minutes, it can kill. Sudden cardiac arrest does not discriminate. It can happen to “anyone, anytime, anywhere and at any age.” Automated external defibrillators (AEDs) can be life-saving. If an electrical shock is delivered within the first minute after someone’s heart stops, studies have shown that it can be restarted and beat on its own in 90 percent
of cases! And more importantly, AEDs are easy to operate even by someone with no medical background. You or a loved one may be able to save someone’s life, or possibly survive because of it.
What are AEDs?
They are lightweight, battery operated, portable devices that can check the heart’s rhythm and deliver an electric shock to the heart if someone has a cardiac arrest. The purpose of the electric shock is to put a temporary stop to the abnormal rhythm and give the heart a chance to resume a normal rhythm. This is similar to a “reset” button on your computer or a circuit breaker that will stop the flow of electricity when there is an overload or short-circuit.
What is sudden cardiac arrest? Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is an abrupt loss of heart function. The heart has an internal electrical system that controls the rate and rhythm of the heartbeat. The electrical current causes the heart to contract and pump blood. Think of the circuitry in our homes and how electricity can turn on the lights or power a fan to rotate.
Electricity drives action or movement. If there is a problem with the heart’s electrical system, it can cause
the heart to beat too fast, too slow, erratically, or stop altogether.
This is known as an arrhythmia. If the arrhythmia results in the heart being unable to pump blood through the body, it can cause sudden cardiac arrest.
How do AEDs work? When turned on or opened, the AED will provide voice instructions. Because minutes count, there can be no ambiguity. The AED will tell the rescuers to place adhesive electrodes, or pads, on the patient’s chest. The built-in computer then checks the heart rhythm. The computer determines if an electrical shock, or “defibrillation,” is needed and will announce to the rescuers to press the shock button on
the device. After the shock is delivered, the device will analyze the rhythm and instruct the rescuer if another shock should be given.
Newer AED models have become so sophisticated that they do not require the operator to press a button to deliver a shock; the machine actually does it by itself! There is no room for any mistakes, and no one can be shocked unless needed.
Where are AEDs located? They should be located in places where there are a lot of people: airports, places of worship, police stations, casinos, convention centers, hotels, and shopping malls. AtlantiCare Heart Heroes is a volunteer group that has placed 150 AED’s in our community and continues to do so with funds raised from their annual Red Dress Event held at The Smithville Inn and other programs throughout the year.
Janet’s Law was signed by Governor Christie in 2012. It requires New Jersey public and nonpublic schools to be equipped with an AED and to train school officials and coaches on how to operate them.
Who can use them? Ideally, training on AED use and CPR is best. However, if a trained person is not immediately available, the device has been designed to facilitate its use. After all, someone’s life may depend upon it.
AtlantiCare offers AED and CPR classes to anyone interested (for more information call 1-888-569-1000).
It may be you, your spouse, parent, child, or friend that saves someone’s life, or has their life saved, because of an AED. Always call 911 if you see someone suddenly collapse. While waiting for the ambulance’s arrival, you can keep the patient alive. Without you, less than 8 percent of people who suffer a cardiac arrest outside the hospital survive. Studies have shown that when communities have AED programs, survival rates can increase to 49-74 percent! Let’s work together to continue to increase those odds.
“Above all else guard your heart because everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23).
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This article is for general information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions and cannot substitute for the advice from your medical professional. Dr. Nina has used all reasonable care in compiling the current information but it may not apply to you and your symptoms. Always consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions.
By Nina Radcliff, MD