By Mercy's Jeff Raymond
When someone suffers sudden cardiac arrest, four minutes can make the difference between life and death.
Eugene Dicksion has seen what happens when an automated external defibrillator (AED) is nearby during such an emergency.
“It’s a paramedic in a box,” he said.
Dicksion, who is the director of Mercy Ada EMS, has seen how shocking the heart back into its normal rhythm can save a person’s life.
Often, these people will appear healthy and do not know they have a heart problem until their heart stops. When the brain is deprived of oxygen, it begins to die. A shock from an AED can restore the hearts normal pumping and get blood circulating again.
In 2014, out of the 57 patients under cardiac arrest that Mercy Ada EMS transported, quick intervention with AEDs saved six lives. In a single day, with early-access CPR and use of an AED, two patients’ lives were saved.
“The AED diagnoses the lethal cardiac rhythm and from there decides whether to shock the heart back into a normal rhythm or if CPR needs to be continued,” Dicksion explained.
Mercy Hospital Ada’s responders are equipped with sophisticated cardiac monitors that allow them to diagnose and treat cardiac arrest on the spot. AEDs are a critical tool for the public and family members of those with cardiac risk factors such heart disease.
“AEDs are very important to get out in the community. Today we are seeing some doctors who are prescribing them to the home,” Dicksion said.
Large businesses and some school gymnasiums have AEDs, but many schools and police departments can’t afford them.
“The first line of defense is having an AED and someone who knows CPR,” said Lori Wightman, president of Mercy Hospital Ada.
Because sheriff’s deputies are often first responders, it makes sense to start by equipping them with AEDs, she explained.
“We want to have AEDs everywhere we work, learn, play, and pray,” Wightman said.