A new school supply, the AED

Pencils? Check. Pens? Check.
Notebooks? Check. Folders? Check.
AEDs? Come again?

An AED, an automatic external defibrillator, can make the difference between life and death on a school campus – indeed, anywhere.

911 and CPR make for a "half-hearted" emergency plan. Get a defibrillator.

911 and CPR (in isolation) make for a "half-hearted" emergency plan. Get a defibrillator.

Cardiac arrest happens when the heart’s electrical impulses suddenly misfire. The heart becomes unable to pump blood. Unconsciousness quickly follows and, without an electrical shock from a defibrillator within minutes, chances for resuscitation are grim. Only one victim in 20 typically survives.

Calling 911 and administering CPR are the first two links in what the American Heart Association calls the “Chain of Survival.” Defibrillation (which mostly anyone can give) and advanced life support (from a trained rescuer) are the other two links.

365,000 North Americans will die from sudden cardiac arrest this year; 7,000 of the SCA victims will be young. Six-year-old Emiliano was one of the lucky ones. His school had an AED when he went into cardiac arrest.

An AED study published in the August 11, 2009 Circulation (a journal of the American Heart Association) found that at 1,710 U.S. high schools with AEDs on site, nearly two-thirds of cardiac arrest victims survived. That’s more than 12 times higher than the typical survival rate of only about 5 percent when cardiac arrest occurs outside of a hospital.

For perspective, lead researcher Dr. Jonathan A. Drezner says cardiac arrest is the leading cause of death in young athletes. Of the 36 cardiac arrests in the high school study, 14 struck student athletes. Nine of them survived. Among the 22 adult occurrences, fourteen survived.

Kaitlin Forbes survived too. She was running to first base when she fell.

This child wasn’t as fortunate. No AED was present. He did not survive.

Can I say that he would have definitely survived if there had been a defibrillator present? No, I can’t. It’s not that linear. But for $1,500 or so, and that were my child, I wouldn’t want to find out the hard way.

My kids’ school has a defibrillator. Does yours? Ask them before the school year starts.

You are welcome to email me for more information or fill in this form and say you found out about defibrillators on JoeHageOnline.com.

Other cardiac arrest statistics:

  • The American Heart Association 2005 guidelines recommend defibrillation within three minutes of cardiac arrest.1
  • The emergency medical team average response time is 6.6 minutes in mid-sized communities.2
  • The emergency medical team average response time is 9.0 minutes in “typical” communities.3
  • “For every minute without defibrillation, the odds of survival drop 7-10 percent. A sudden cardiac arrest victim who isn’t defibrillated within 8-10 minutes has virtually no chance of survival.”4

  • Joe Hage is the director of marketing communications for Cardiac Science, manufacturers of the Powerheart AED G3 defibrillator, so he has a vested interest in defibrillator sales. He encourages you to do your own research on defibrillation in schools. The most important thing is that you have a defibrillator (any brand), not necessarily his.

    1 AHA Guidelines 2005, Part 5: Electrical Therapies, IV-39
    2 Braun O, McCallion R, Fazackerley J. Characteristics of midsized urban EMS systems. Ann Emerg Med 1990 May;19(5):536-46
    3 Mosesso VN Jr, Davis EA, Auble TE, Paris PM, Yealy DM. Use of automated external defibrillators by police officers for treatment of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. Ann Emerg Med. 1998;32:200-207.
    4 American Heart Association website

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