Automated External Defibrillators: Saving Lives

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Automated External Defibrillators: Saving Lives

Jack Holdsworth, Staff Writer

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A cardiac arrest is a medical emergency in which a person’s heart stops pumping blood to the rest of the body. When this happens, swift use of an Automated External Defibrillator (AED), could mean the difference between life and death.

A 16-year study conducted on the West Coast by the American Heart Association found that 12.58% of high schools had a cardiac arrest occur on campus in that time period. In other words, in a 16-year span, close to 13% of high schools have had to use an AED.

NFA could, one day, be included in this 13%, but if this ever were to happen, NFA has many AEDs available.

“There are 13 AEDs strategically placed throughout the campus, and they are within all the buildings on Main campus, and also on the Sachem campus. They are placed where they are… they are supposed to be in what is referred to as a readily available area; that people, when you enter a building, you are aware of where they are,” explained NFA’s Campus Safety Director Kevin Rodino.

Joey Hundley, CPR Instructor and Director of American Professional Education Services in Norwich, said that an AED should be used “as soon as possible when you recognize that someone is unconscious and unresponsive. When [people] take a CPR course, we teach [them] to recognize signs of unconsciousness and unresponsiveness, with the intent [being] that you can get AED to the scene and on the patient within two minutes.”

Hundley also explained that in an emergency, simply turning the AED on can help someone save a life.

“Call 911, talk to the dispatcher, get the AED, and turn it on. It will step you through everything you need to do,” said Hundley.

The AEDs are programmed to begin talking when the cover is opened. They talk a rescuer through applying the AED electrode pads and delivering a shock, in addition to setting  a tempo for performing chest compressions. A 911 dispatcher will also talk the caller through performing chest compressions, known as hands-only CPR.

Rodino explained that NFA’s Campus Safety Team is trained in First Aid/CPR and AED use, and respond to all medical emergencies on campus as the first responders.

“Get the attention of someone else, meaning even fellow students, another adult that’s on the campus. Students are certainly able to push the emergency alert buttons that are on the campus, in the classrooms, to get someone to respond there,” Rodino said.  He added, “Every year, in the month of August, before all the students come back, we attend our First Aid, our CPR, and our AED training.”

Paramedic Kyle Ridenour explained, “Since AEDs have become more readily available, it seems like there has been a much greater increase in the survivability of cardiac arrests outside of a hospital setting.”

Survivability of cardiac arrests have, in fact, increased; according to an American Heart Association estimate, 1,700 lives were saved last year with an AED in the United States. Still, despite this improved statistic, overall survivability is still staggeringly low.  Only 45.7 percent of cardiac arrest victims get an AED used before First Responders arrive, which can take, on average, four to ten minutes.

“About 10% of EMS cardiac arrests that are worked survive, which is not that great. We don’t have accurate numbers on how many people who have out-of-hospital experiences when first responder or layperson CPR is started,” said Hundley.

A 2015 Connecticut state law requires all public high school students to receive hands-on CPR training, but NFA, an independent high school, is exempt from that law.

Hundley argued, “We know that by teaching CPR, and getting the community to conduct CPR early and get an AED, and get an AED applied early, we increase the chance of survival, and that’s the ultimate goal.”

Professionals hope that the more people who are educated and trained in CPR and AED use, the better the statistics will look, as more people are able to save a life in a true emergency.