You don’t have to go to medical or nursing school to save a life during an emergency. Having basic knowledge of lifesaving practices like CPR and using an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) are invaluable skills that can enable you to be part of a team that potentially does save a life. Becoming familiar with CPR and using an AED will alleviate the intimidation and assist you to confidently take action to help another human being in crisis.
The Importance of AEDs
An AED is a portable, user friendly device that can deliver an electronic shock to restore the heart to its natural rhythm during a heart attack. During a heart attack, the heart rhythm becomes abnormal and causes the person to go into “cardiac arrest” and lose consciousness because the abnormal rhythm is incapable of producing the normal squeeze to the heart to pump blood and oxygen to the brain and other vital organs in the body. Time is of the essence to return the rhythm to normal and the AED can often deliver the shock to do this. CPR provides chest compressions to squeeze the heart between the chest wall and spine to actually pump the blood to the vital organs, especially the brain, until you deliver the AED shocks. The AED device is a monitor and after the contact pads are placed on the person, it “reads” the victim’s heart rhythm and rate and actually voice prompts and instructs the AED user when and how to safely provide an electric shock to the heart and hopefully, convert the rhythm to normal again.
Studies show that 95 percent of people who experience sudden cardiac arrest will die from it in minutes, but AED delivered shocks will greatly improve their chance of survival. In fact, the American Red Cross states that improved training and access to AEDs can save 50,000 lives every year. They believe every American, no matter where they are in their lives, should be within four minutes of an AED. These lifesaving machines should be carried in all first-response vehicles, and be accessible in public and private places that host large numbers of people. AEDs are also available to purchase for your home if you or a family member are at risk for heart attacks.
How to Use an AED
While the American Heart Association offers formal CPR and AED training, like the Heartsaver course offered at Shore Medical Center, every person can be trained to provide CPR and use an AED to help save someone’s life.
If you believe someone is experiencing sudden cardiac arrest, or a similar medical emergency, knowing the following steps and tips for starting CPR and using an AED will help you feel more comfortable using one and increase someone’s chance of survival:
- Before beginning CPR and utilizing an AED, check the person to assure they are not responsive. If you find a person unconscious, confirm by shaking and/or shouting their name to make sure they are not sleeping or if they fainted and can be aroused.
- If two people are present, have someone call 9-1-1 and get the AED while the other begins CPR.
- Check the person’s pulse at the carotid artery (neck) or femoral artery (groin) and see if they are breathing. Tilt their head back and ensure with a quick sweep that there are no foreign objects in their throat. If they are not breathing, if there is no pulse felt and if the person is not able to be aroused, begin CPR.
- Make sure the person is dry and away from puddles or water.
- Expose their chest and attach the AED’s sticky pads which are the electrodes that send heart rhythm signals to the AED.
- If the person has a lot of chest hair, and the electrodes won’t be able to stick and work properly, you may have to trim the victim’s chest and reapply the pads. AEDs usually come with a kit that has scissors and a razor.
- Check the person for implanted medical devices, like a pacemaker or implantable cardiac defibrillator, or body piercings. Move the pads at least one inch away from these devices or piercings so the electric current can flow freely.
- Be sure to remove necklaces and underwire bras before administering the shock. The metal may conduct electricity and burn the victim.
- Once everything is checked and the electrodes are placed correctly, the AED’s built-in computer will check the victim’s heart rhythm and analyze and tell you if defibrillation is needed. The AED voice will prompt you through the process of delivering shocks when indicated, instructing you when to clear from touching the patient and press the shock button to convert the rhythm to normal. After a shock, start or resume CPR until medical help arrives or the person begins to move. The machine may prompt you to deliver an additional shock. Always provide effective CPR in between shocks.
For business owners, having an AED machine at your business site is a vital addition. Take it from Greate Bay Racquet and Fitness Club in Somers Point, where just a few months ago their AED was used to save a life. While working out, Kevin Montone, a Somers Point resident, experienced a cardiac arrest. The Greate Bay staff acted quickly establishing his lack of responsiveness, pulse and breathing. They called 9-1-1 and got their AED in the gym, brought it to Kevin. CPR was initiated promptly with the staff working together to perform the CPR and provide application of the AED and deliver life saving shocks to Kevin to return his heart rhythm to normal even before the EMS arrived. Shore’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Jeanne Rowe, was at Greate Bay during her own training session and when seeing what was happening, rushed to help, assisted in confirming Kevin needed CPR and began performing chest compressions. Within minutes, the AED was properly placed and “jolted” Kevin back to life and he had a strong pulse and normal heart rhythm. When the EMS arrived, Kevin was becoming conscious again and was rushed to a nearby trauma center. Kevin was found to have severe blockages in two arteries and underwent double bypass surgery. He is now recovering well and is thankful for the caring, knowledgeable and brisk response of the staff at Greate Bay and Dr. Rowe. Montone credits his survival to his faith in God and having caring people come to his aid with the proper resources that could save him.
How You Can Help
Victims of sudden cardiac arrest depend on others that respond quickly and know how to perform CPR and use an AED. AEDs should be available in all places to be utilized to deliver lifesaving care for anyone who suffers a cardiac arrest. If you own a large or small business, an exercise facility, or someone at home is at risk for a heart attack, consider purchasing an AED so you too can provide a valuable tool that can be utilized with CPR to possibly save a life.
Shore Medical Center is proud to offer our community the Heartsaver First Aid, CPR and AED course once a month on Saturdays. This all-day course is a classroom, video-based, instructor-led course that teaches students critical skills needed to respond to and manage a first aid, choking or sudden cardiac arrest emergency in the first few minutes until emergency medical services arrive. To learn more, visit https://shoremedicalcenter.org/trainingcenter.