Getting an AED for your company, for only a few thousand dollars, can be the difference between life and death. One person that knows this very well is stockbroker David Browne. Located in Australia, he drives a silver-grey sports car and owns one of the top wineries on the Bellarine Peninsula in Australia. But his life would have been over right now, had he not made a purchase that cost him less than $5000. That purchase was an automated external defibrillator, or AED. He made the investment about three years ago, and it saved his life.
Running Tolhurst Group, Australia’s oldest stockbroking company, he is 63 years old. On Friday, March 27th, he was running a meeting in the boardroom. After the meeting he went for a cup of tea, which he remembers beginning to pour, but that’s all. He had a sudden cardiac arrest. His heart had stopped beating.
What he had, though, was trained employees. About 200 employees that he had always encouraged to take first-aid courses, as he would regularly bring in CPR instructors to teach the employees. One of the instructors had suggested that they also train them on the use of the AED, in addition to the CPR. He then bought one for the office.
An automated external defibrillator is a portable electronic device that can be used on someone who has suffered a cardiac arrest. It automatically diagnoses their condition and, if necessary, delivers a dose of electricity to shock their heart into a normal rhythm. Twenty of the staff were trained on its’ use.
As one colleague began CPR, another ran for the defibrillator. When he returned, he did as instructed, and voice prompts told the operator what to do next. He pressed the button to deliver a shock and Mr. Browne’s heart started beating again, and he started breathing again.
Paramedics arrived shortly thereafter, about 10 minutes after receiving the call. As they walked in the door, Mr. Browne’s heart stopped beating again, and they shocked him to restart it, but they said that without the initial use of the AED, he would have most certainly died.
Research has shown that every minute a person with sudden cardiac arrest waits for treatment with a defibrillator, their chance of survival decreases by about 10 per cent.
Sudden cardiac arrests kill most people. According to Ambulance Victoria, there are about 4000 cardiac arrests in Victoria each year. In Melbourne, only 54 per cent of victims make it to hospital alive and only about two in 10 survive. And that is one of the best survival rates in the world. Since his scare Mr Browne has Googled the statistics and found a global survival rate of about 4 per cent.
Lack of quick access to CPR and defibrillation is a main reason for the high mortality.
Since the 1990s there has been a gradual trend to public access defibrillation, putting easy-to-use semi-automatic defibrillators in places where crowds gather. The State Government has funded about 60 of the machines in 16 places, including 27 at Melbourne Airport, 14 at CBD train stations; and others at Melbourne Zoo, Federation Square, Healesville Sanctuary, the Shrine of Remembrance and community leisure centres.
But, apart from big shopping centres, private enterprise has been slow to embrace the life-saving devices. Ambulance Victoria, which is promoting an online registration system for the companies that have them, says their placement in workplaces still appears “minimal” — so far, only 100 businesses have applied for registration.
“That’s sad,” says Mr Browne. “Prices now are down to about $2500 — for a few thousand bucks, what an insurance policy to have.
“The knock-on effect of the sort of thing that happened to me is pretty horrible. A mate of mine had a staff member die in his office some years ago. The trauma that wrought on the assembled staff was not only significant in emotional terms, but resulted in thousands of dollars being spent on remedial action for their heads.”
Rowan Harman, one of the Mobile Intensive Care Ambulance paramedics who responded to Mr Browne’s cardiac arrest, says putting defibrillators in offices, factories, building sites and other workplaces could save an enormous number of lives.
“They’re easy to use, you’re prompted all the way, you don’t need any medical knowledge… All it needs is someone to grab that machine and turn it on.”
-via The Age