Two years ago, at my granddaughter’s middle school, a student sustained a cardiac arrest.   His life was saved because the school nurse was nearby and so was an AED — an automated external defibrillator.  A recent article in the American Academy of Pediatrics News (Sept. 7, 2017), by AAP staff writer Trisha Korioth, explains why this equipment is essential in schools and other public places, and in large workplaces across the country.  The bottom line is this:  Every one of us should be trained in basic cardiac pulmonary resuscitation (CPR)…and be able to use an AED.

In her AAP article, Ms. Korioth focused her attention on a startling fact:  Sudden cardiac arrest — when the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating — is the No. 1 cause of death in young athletes.  It usually strikes, without warning, in the midst of sporting competition or at practices.  There is growing recognition that the lifesaving remedy for these young athletes — and for people of all ages who may experience sudden cardiac arrest — is to have an AED nearby.

A Defibtech Lifeline AED

That’s why a growing number of states, cities and school districts are making sure that their public facilities are equipped with AEDs — and that people know where they are located — so the device can be quickly accessed and applied
in an emergency.  When a sudden cardiac arrest occurs, time is of the essence.  When the heart stops beating, just a few minutes can mean the difference between life and death.  With each passing minute, the chance of survival goes down by 10 percent. 

Dr. Alex B. Diamond, an American Academy of Pediatrics sports medicine expert, has a message for all of us:  “You need to be prepared to save a life, and these devices without a doubt can save a life.”  An AED is easy to use.  According to Dr. Diamond, “As soon as you open the AED, a recorded voice will automatically tell you exactly what to do.”  The AED, once applied to the victim, checks the person’s heart rhythm, and sends a shock that will return the heart rhythm to normal.  “It will not shock someone who doesn’t need it,” says Dr. Diamond.  “You don’t have to worry about hurting someone by discharging a shock when they don’t actually need it.”

This is a good time for City leaders, School District leaders, school nurses and others to undertake a comprehensive citywide inventory of AEDs — and our preparedness as individuals and as a community to save lives in emergencies. 

Phyllis Agran, M.D.

Phyllis Agran, M.D.

Phyllis Agran is a practicing Orange County pediatrician, a Professor at the UC Irvine School of Medicine, and Past President of the Orange County Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Agran is a recognized national expert in pediatric injury control and prevention. She is also a member of the Irvine Unified School District's Medical Advisory Committee. Phyllis can be reached at phyllis@irvinecommunitynews.org
Phyllis Agran, M.D.