Editorial: Portable lifesavers

An AED sign hangs on the wall in the WEPCO building, informing people that the Automated External Defibrillator is located in the kitchen cabinet.

An AED sign hangs on the wall in the WEPCO building, informing people that the Automated External Defibrillator is located in the kitchen cabinet.

There are more than 600 businesses in town, but only a handful — or so it seems — have the means to potentially reverse effects of a life-threatening cardiac arrest: an automatic external defibrillator.

Not every business needs one, but those who cater to the general public or employ a sizable workforce should seriously consider having one accessible.

According to its website, “the American Heart Association supports the position that improved training and access to AEDs could save 50,000 lives each year.” Additionally, it believes everyone should be within four minutes of an AED and someone trained to use it.

That’s a tall order, but the reasoning is if defibrillation is used within the first four minutes of the onset of cardiac arrest, survival rates top 50%. That is precious little time — too short to rely on the arrival of police or EMTs, or even for an AED to be retrieved from a locked office, where they are sometimes kept.

More than 350,000 Americans will suffer a cardiac arrest this year. Most will die from it within minutes. It is not the same as a heart attack, where a patient has a greater chance of survival. Cardiac arrest can happen to anyone of any age, anywhere, at any time.

Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating. A defibrillator can deliver an electric shock to the heart in an attempt to restore a normal rhythm. It is not a guarantee, but it gives the person the best chance of survival until he or she can get to a hospital.

Perhaps the greatest advantage with an AED is that anyone can use it. The machine literally walks you through the steps of administering a shock, and if one is not needed, it won’t deliver it.

If an AED is not available, CPR should be administered at once to a cardiac arrest victim. This is the most likely situation when a cardiac arrest occurs in the home. (AEDs for use at home are available, a good investment for someone at high risk of suffering cardiac arrest.)

CPR classes are frequently available either right here in Wilton or nearby.

No one enjoys diving into an emergency, but we must get over our squeamishness at putting our hands on a stranger and helping them. Sometimes life can change in a matter of moments. Sometimes we can nudge that change to better, rather than worse.

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