We’ve all likely seen anautomated external defibrillator (AED)mounted on the wall of our locallibrary, hockey rink, leisure centre orworkplace without giving it a secondthought. And yet, simply knowing adefibrillator is available could save alife.
Anyone can use one. “The devices
are very user-friendly,” says John
Hein, a paramedic and the provincial
coordinator for Public Access to
Defibrillation ( heart-safe.ca). “They
actually walk you through what to
do. We recommend people take a
certification course, but the machine
itself will prompt you.”
Indeed, defibrillators are safe and
foolproof—they only release a shock
when a heartbeat is not detected. “If
a pulse is there, even if you press the
shock button, nothing will occur,”
Defibrillators are lifesavers,particularly when someone has asudden cardiac arrest. “When thathappens, care is needed as soon aspossible,” Hein says. “For every minutewithout care, a 10 per cent chance ofsurvival is lost.” After five minutes,the chance of survival is 50 per cent.
A defibrillator can make all thedifference, as emergency services canrarely arrive that quickly—especiallyin rural areas.
Grande Prairie resident Rob Smithcan attest to this. After a fitness classat a recreation facility, he suddenlydropped to the ground. Onlookers,including a physician and nurse,performed CPR on Smith as a facilitystaffer grabbed the defibrillator, whichwas applied twice before emergencyservices arrived.
Community defibrillators deliver immediate care
“The stars were clearly aligned that
day,” Smith says. “The right people
who knew the right stuff were there,
and there was an AED. If I had been
at home or at the lake that weekend, I
would have died.”
To track defibrillators across the
province, a new online database
has been developed at heart-safe.ca.
The database allows 9-1-1 operators
to notify first responders where
the closest defibrillator is during
an emergency. The database is also
available to the public by visiting
heart-safe.ca and searching for AED
At the end of the day, defibrillatorsare “the kind of device you hope youdon’t have to use and for the most part,it just sits untouched,” Hein says. “But,you’re sure glad it’s there if the needarises.”
— Colleen SetoSimply knowing a defibrillator is available could save a life.