ABC News: Defibrillators are so user-friendly it’s easy to save a life — if you’re quick enough

Updated: 29 May 2019
Categories: General

By Andree Withey 29/05/2019 Provided by ABC News

Helping someone survive a cardiac arrest is not always going to be the job of a medical expert — it could be down to you.

Each year, more than 20,000 Australians suffer a sudden cardiac arrest, but according to Australian medical authorities only about 10 per cent of those people survive.

St John Ambulance Australia said its figures showed the survival rate was more like 5 per cent.

Either way, that is far too many lives being lost each year, especially given that the issue is fundamentally one of response time.

Two years ago Ellie Bayliss, 30, was standing on a Sydney railway station when her heart stopped beating.

Luckily for her, a rail paramedic was on the same platform, along with two other men who knew what to do.

“They started CPR immediately and were about to use an automatic external defibrillator when ambulance crews arrived and used their own device to shock my heart back into action,” Ms Bayliss said.

“It’s a no-brainer to me — these guys saved my life.”

Ms Bayliss now has a defibrillator permanently installed in her body in the case of another heart episode.

In Brisbane, the city train network has no defibrillators on trains or platforms and is reliant on equipment in police outposts at three stations.

But QR chief executive Nick Easy said that would soon change.

“We are moving to make automated external defibrillators (AEDs) available, initially at 12 priority locations,” he said.

Would you know how to use an AED in an emergency?

If you’re thinking the answer is no, think again — the devices are designed to be easy to use.

They are often found in workplaces and gyms.

This year, Woolworths is rolling them out to all its stores across Australia for the use of both workers and customers.

Tony Hucker from Queensland Ambulance said using an AED required no formal training.

“As soon as you turn on the AED, the device starts talking and steps you through what to do,” he said.

Why is timing such a big deal?

Every minute without defibrillation reduces your chance of survival by 10 per cent.

“In Queensland, there is a 16 per cent survival rate for people who have their heart restarted with a defibrillator and are treated in hospital and eventually get to go home,” Mr Hucker said.

In February, a Sunshine Coast gym owner saved the life of a young woman with an AED when she collapsed while she was using a rowing machine at Noosa.

When is an AED needed?

If a person has stopped breathing, that is when you need to start CPR and find a defibrillator.

Call triple-0 first, but it is important not to simply wait for an ambulance to arrive because defibrillation is most effective when done within the first few minutes.

The shock delivered interrupts the chaotic rhythm of the heart, giving it a chance to return to its normal rhythm.

The AED will continue to monitor the person’s heart and if it stops again the unit will audibly advise that another shock is required.

Can you harm someone with an AED?

No, the AED will only give a shock when it is required.

Cardiac arrest can happen to people of all ages and can be caused by heart disease, but also occurs as a result of trauma such as a fall or car accident, breathing conditions and allergic reaction.

In Victoria, a third of all “out of hospital” cardiac arrests in 2017-18 had bystanders provide CPR.

But only 1 per cent of those interventions involved bystanders using AEDS.

In 2016, there were just 17 reported cases of defibrillation with an AED prior to the arrival of paramedics in Queensland.

An AED costs about $2,000 and with more in the community authorities stress the importance of knowing where they are and how to access and use them quickly.

National Heart Foundation CEO John Kelly said AEDs need to be displayed in very public places on a wall.

“AEDs should be where everyone can see and access them not under an office desk or in a first aid room,” he said.

Mr. Kelly said the units had to be as visible as fire extinguishers so they can be grabbed quickly in an emergency.

Provided by ABC News (article share – original article link no longer available).


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