Defibrillators Save Lives

Last week The Evening Standard reported that a Year 9 teenager was rushed to hospital after collapsing during a PE lesson at a Secondary School in Barnet. He was reportedly given CPR by a teacher before paramedics and the air ambulance arrived on scene. I am not sure if the school had a defibrillator but luckily the paramedics arrived quickly. Which is just as well as once the heart stops you only have around 3 minutes before the brain starts to die. So what happens if the paramedics do not arrive quickly? And CPR is not started and there is no defibrillator on site?

Chances of survival then become very slim which is why it is so important that we all learn how to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and ensure that there is a defibrillator on site. Statistics show  that around 32 per cent of people survive a cardiac arrest in a public place but, if there is a defibrillator and someone knows how to use it, the chance of survival can increase to 80 per cent.

The 2016 Resuscitation Council UK Guidelines highlight the  importance of providing CPR and the quick use of a defibrillator. The community response to cardiac arrest is critical to saving lives.

Each year,  the UK ambulance services respond to approximately 60,000 cases of suspected cardiac arrest. Resuscitation is attempted by ambulance services in less than half of these cases (approximately 28,000). The main reasons are that either the victim has been dead for several hours or has not received bystander CPR so by the time the emergency services arrive the person has died.

The guidelines state that:

“Strengthening the community response to cardiac arrest by training and empowering more bystanders to perform CPR and by increasing the use of automated external defibrillators (AEDs) at least doubles the chances of survival and could save thousands of lives each year.”

Last year just after Safe and Sound had provided a north London dental practice with its annual CPR training its receptionist had a massive heart attack while at work. Because everybody at the surgery knew what to do and CPR was started immediately and the paramedics from the Whittington Hospital just a few minutes away arrived promptly, she survived. Had the circumstances been different she would probably not be here today.

The point here is simple –  we all need to take responsibility and learn CPR. It’s not rocket science.  Companies, schools, restaurants,  in fact all buildings where there are large numbers of people working need to ensure that they have a defibrillator on site and that it is in a prominent place. I say this because recently we were called into a company to teach CPR to all the employees as somebody there had suffered a cardiac arrest and the staff had been traumatized because no one knew what to do.  When we arrived there we found that actually they did have a defibrillator  — in the basement  — but  the staff were unware it was there  and even had they known it was there, they would not have known how to use it.

As the outgoing Chairman of the London Ambulance Services Richard  Hunt said during their campaign to get 1,000 extra defibrillators into public places across the capital

“Don’t leave it too late to do the right thing. Every shop, gym, hotel and office in London should have a defibrillator so they’re ready to save a London life. And they cost very little – it really is just the paper clip budget.”