Each year in Australia, over 25,000 people die from sudden cardiac arrest. This life-threatening condition that causes the heart to stop beating doesn’t pick its victims — no matter how old you are, you can fall prey to it. The only hope you have to survive is to get prompt medical help.
But the problem is that sometimes that’s not possible right away. There are many reasons for that — the passers-by may not know what to do, and the medical staff could be far away. With the introduction of defibrillators in public spaces, though, cardiac arrest victims will get help quicker, increasing their survival chances.
Your heart typically beats in a regular pattern, pumping blood and oxygen to all parts of your body. But when it stops beating due to some medical condition, blood can’t move around anymore. Soon enough, your brain will stop receiving its supply of oxygen and start dying. This life-threatening condition is called sudden cardiac arrest.
Usually, cardiac arrest happens to people who already have some kind of heart disease. But sometimes it may seem to come entirely out of nowhere and strike even the healthiest of people. Since the symptoms are minimal or often fully absent, it’s hard to prevent it or treat it before it happens.
Sadly, the survival rate of cardiac arrest victims is less than 10 per cent. The longer the brain remains without oxygen, the less likely the patient is to survive. That’s why it’s crucial to perform CPR right away and get a defibrillator as soon as possible.
Although cardiac arrest often has no symptoms, here are some of the common ones to help you recognize it early:
Shortness of breath
Fatigue or weakness
Nausea and vomiting
Loss of consciousness
Even if you’ve never set foot inside a hospital, you’ve surely seen a defibrillator before. This device stars in all medical shows on TV and makes its appearance whenever someone’s life is in danger. Its role in real life isn’t much different — defibrillators are regularly used by medical personnel to revive people whose hearts stopped.
In short, a defibrillator is a device that sends electric shocks through the heart to return it to its normal state. It consists of pads that you place onto the patient’s bare skin and a control box. This box is the heart of the device — that’s where you’ll find the battery, electrodes, and microelectronic elements.
There are many types of defibrillators out there, but they all work more or less the same. However, we will focus on just one here — an automated external defibrillator (AED). This device can be found in numerous places outside of the hospital and used even by non-medical personnel. In fact, it is so easy to operate that you can use it without any prior training or knowledge about AEDs.
The excellent thing about AEDs is that they come with spoken step-by-step instructions. So even if you’ve never touched a defibrillator before, you can still save someone’s life if you act quickly. There are also diagrams to guide you in case spoken instructions are not clear enough.
First, you need to peel the plastic off the pads and place them on the patient’s bare chest. The AED will then analyse the heart rhythm and determine if defibrillation is necessary. If it is, the defibrillator will instruct you to press the button and administer an electric shock to the patient. While it’s doing that, you should avoid touching the patient.
Several shocks may be necessary to normalize the patient’s heart rhythm, so keep going until you see obvious signs of life. The defibrillator will occasionally stop to reanalyse the heart rhythm and make sure further shocks are helpful.
During the defibrillation, you or someone who’s with you should continue administering CPR. Only stop when the device is shocking the patient, but keep going between the shocks and as you wait for emergency services to arrive.
As we said before, with cardiac arrest, every minute counts. The longer the patient waits for emergency services to arrive and defibrillate them, the more likely they are to die. And since cardiac arrest often occurs suddenly and away from the hospital, help can arrive far too late. In fact, that’s precisely why so many sudden heart failures end in death — proper care wasn’t administered quickly enough.
But what if every gym, airport, shopping mall, or community centre had an AED on hand? Well, the situation would be completely different. Instead of waiting ten minutes or longer for help to arrive, regular people who happen to be nearby could grab an AED and start reviving. Even if they didn’t succeed in fully stabilizing the patient, their prompt care would make a huge difference.
Luckily, the public is starting to recognize the importance of having defibrillators outside of hospitals. More and more people are going through AED training and learning how to help someone whose heart has stopped.
Also, many public places are now equipped with this life-saving device. The goal is to raise people’s awareness even further and make defibrillation common practice. Let’s hope that all those efforts pay off, and fewer people die from cardiac arrest.
About the author
This article was written by the Medshop Editor - Medshop is a leading medical supplier, servicing the Australasian region with an unbeatable range of medical supplies and a drive to exceed consumer needs.