No lie! Community Center gets defibrillator
Shocking new technology at the Glenwood Springs Community Center will dramatically increase the chances of survival for heart attack victims.
On Thursday, Glenwood Springs Fire Department personnel, along with employees of the Community Center, showed off the center’s new automated external defibrillator, or AED.
“Probably the greatest thing we can do to save a life is to provide quick electricity,” Glenwood Springs battalion chief Bill Harding said of heart attack victims. “The idea is, if there’s a way to provide shock before the fire department gets there, it can help.”
Anyone who has ever watched the TV drama ER has no doubt seen a defibrillator in action. Most dramatized situations on TV will show a doctor yelling, “Clear!” then administering a shock that practically jolts the patient out of his gurney.
With this new technology, anyone off the street can now administer that same kind of life-saving shock.
The AED was bought for the Community Center at the request of Kathleen Milbrath, the center’s adult and senior activities director.
With more than 40 people in her senior fitness class, as well as many other at-risk people exercising, skating and generally stressing their hearts, Milbrath figured the AED would be a good first aid tool to have around.
The idea of providing public defibrillators started a few years ago in Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. Several AEDs were made available throughout the airport, allowing airport personnel or whoever else is around to attempt to get a heart attack victim’s ticker working again.
Since then, as the unit’s price has dropped, its popularity has skyrocketed around the country, Harding said.
“They’re in airports, terminals, shopping malls – I wish we could get them in police cars,” he said.
Contrary to popular belief, the electric current doesn’t “jump start” a person’s heart. Rather, the shock sort of shuts down the electric waves in a heart, resetting it to a flatline. The hope, then, is that the heart will recognize the flatline and restart itself.
“We’re trying to stop all conduction, then the heart will pick back up with its electricity,” Glenwood EMS technician Chad Harris said.
Administering such a shock can give a patient as much as an 85 percent chance of survival, Harris said.
The machine is fully automatic, taking the guesswork out of what would no doubt be a tense situation, even for someone who has never operated such a machine. It has just three buttons and is easy to operate.
“They made them that way because the public is going to be using it,” Harding said. “It’s a big link in the chain of survival.”
“The machine tells when someone needs a shock,” Harris said. “It truly will recognize ventricular fibrillation.”
In a suspected cardiac arrest, the first action would be to call 911. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, is the next step. If the patient doesn’t respond, the AED would then be hooked onto the patient via two sticky patches that go on the chest and side.
The machine would then analyze the patient and give both verbal and visual instructions on what to do next. If the AED determines the patient has a “shockable rhythm” – either ventricular fibrillation or ventricular tachycardia – it will charge up, emitting a louder version of the noise a camera flash makes while charging up, then allow the person treating the patient to press a button, delivering a shock that’s roughly equal to a quick jolt from a 110-volt electrical outlet.
Around 75 percent of people who experience cardiac arrest fall into a shockable category, Harris said.
The machine, purchased by the Glenwood Springs Fire Department and donated to the Community Center, cost $2,200.
“All it takes is really one time. If it works once, that will make a huge difference,” said the fire department’s public information officer Pete Bradshaw.
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