Heart attack survival odds increase in Carbondale
The odds that Carbondale area residents will survive a heart attack increased this week, after the Carbondale & Rural Fire Protection District put six automatic external defibrillators into use.Unlike old defibrillators, the new computer-controlled defibrillators can be used by police officers, firefighters and just about anyone else who takes the simple training.”They are a piece of cake to work with,” said Carbondale Police Chief Gene Schilling.”This new service may truly save someone’s life,” said Carl Smith, emergency medical services director for the Carbondale Fire District.The six new defibrillators bring to nine the number available throughout the 300-square-mile fire district. Smith said the units will be placed in three police patrol cars, two of the district’s immediate response vehicles, and one each in the fire district stations.The defibrillators cost $2,800 each. Two were donated by Alpine Bank. The other four were purchased using a grant from the Aspen Valley Medical Association, Smith said. The grant was written by volunteer fire district EMT Doug Davis and Carbondale Police Sgt. Greg Knott.Defibrillators can be used when a person suffers a heart attack, Smith said. Often, in a sudden cardiac event, the heart goes into ventricular fibrillation. That’s when the heart goes into a spasm instead of a regular beat, and does not pump blood.”If the quivering is not stopped quickly, then the patient’s heart will soon stop moving at all,” Smith said. “Ventricular fibrillation is always fatal unless it is treated immediately.”The electric shock from a defibrillator pad placed on the chest stops the quivering, Smith said, and gives the heart’s sinus atrial node a chance to start the heart beating.With new defibrillator technology, computerized defibrillator pads read cardiac rhythms. Older defibrillators required far more sophisticated diagnostics. Only one heart rhythm requires an electrical jolt, so the defibrillator shocks the patient only when it would be effective.Because the new defibrillators can be used by people with little training, the Colorado health department lifted many restrictions on their use.Cost of the defibrillators also dropped from up to $5,000 to as little as $2,800 in the past year.Smith said it’s important for defibrillators to be widely available across the Carbondale Fire District, and cited the following statistics from the American Heart Association:-A patient has a 70 to 90 percent survival rate if defibrillation is performed within one minute of the heart attack.-The survival rate drops to 30 percent if the defibrillation is performed seven minutes after the heart attack, and 2 percent after 12 minutes.Schilling estimated his department responds to one cardiac arrest a month, and he welcomes the new defibrillators. “Anything we can do to help save lives is something we want to try to do,” Schilling said.Smith said it’s important for police to have defibrillators, because they often arrive on a heart attack scene before medical crews.District-wide, emergency personnel have responded to 95 cardiac events, and 19 people in complete cardiac arrest, since Jan. 1, 2001, Smith said. He expects those numbers to increase.”Our population is growing, and aging,” Smith said. “As you have more older people, you have more heart attacks.”Smith said nationwide, more and more public places, such as airports, are installing automatic external defibrillators and training staff to use them.”They are like fire extinguishers,” he said.
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Grace Wesseling is an animal lover, a cheerleader of seven years and another soon-to-be graduate of Bridges High School, class of 2021.