This information is especially important for anyone who has a family member with a heart problem or is at risk for heart problems.
You probably know about the defibrillators doctors use. You’ve seen them on TV. The doctor yells, “Clear!” and places paddles on the chest of someone having a heart attack, shocking their heart into beating once again. It is actually very similar in real life.
Generally used in the case of cardiac arrest, hospital staff use defibrillators to send an electric shock through the heart of a patient, often saving their life. However, what you may not know is that it’s not just doctors who can use defibrillators. Average citizens can buy or use them as well, and have them available in the case of an emergency.
There are portable automated external defibrillators (AED) that someone just like you can buy from stores or online. These machines analyze heart rate and then administer a shock if immediate action becomes needed. Most states require you to have a certification to use an AED. If someone goes into sudden cardiac arrest due to an arrhythmia (an irregular heartbeat that can cause the heart to stop in some cases), it helps to be prepared.
For instance, if you’re certified for CPR, life-saving chest compressions will keep the blood and oxygen flowing to the brain for a little while, but what happens then? Most people in cardiac arrest will need an AED to give their heart a jumpstart. The longer it takes for emergency help to reach the victim, the less chance that person has for survival. The shock of an AED has been known to return people’s heart rhythms to normal and save their lives if it’s done quickly enough.
AEDs can often be found in public places, so that people trained to use them have access if necessary. So if you’re trained but don’t have a defibrillator with you, you may be able to get your hands on one in an emergency while at the mall, the gym, or hotel. AEDs are operated by batteries and usually come with instructions. For a list of which states require AED placement in public places like schools, gyms, health clubs, etc., see this website.
The problem is that most people don’t know they are available. Or, if they do, they may not know where to find them or even what they look like. Below is a video with some AED basics:
So if you know someone who has heart trouble or you just want to be prepared for an emergency, you may consider getting an AED of your own. At the very least, be aware of the location of AEDs in the places you frequent and learn how to use one. A defibrillator could be the difference between life or death for someone you love.