At the end of last week, one of the firm’s medical specialists, Sharon Stabile, wrote a piece on a large recall of AED’s – automated external defibrillators. As I was editing and finalizing the piece for publication on the firm’s blog, I couldn’t help but wonder just how many people are aware of exactly what these ubiquitous devices do and how to use them should the need ever arise.
Every day I enter our office, I see an AED hanging from the wall in the common area of our building. I admit that until about a year or so ago when I began investigating the death of a young boy at one of our area school’s (an AED was used to no avail in an attempt to save his life), I personally didn’t know what this was or how to use one if I ever had to do so.
After Sharon’s blog was posted, which had dozens of readers as soon as it was posted, one of the readers, Denise Maier, posted a thought-provoking comment. It turns out the Ms. Maier has a website, www.defibillator.net, which is a retail site for certain brands of defibrillators. Having elected to review all comments before they are approved (mainly to avoid spammers – of which there are many), I initially wondered if this was just another piece of spam by someone trying to promote their product or website. After getting over my initial reaction and investigating her site more closely, I realized that Ms. Maier’s site had a lot more to offer than just a product. I navigated on the home page to tabs entitled Articles and Blog and started to pay attention to the content of these postings. I was more than pleasantly surprised to find that this site offers some very valuable information regarding AED’s, policies, procedures, recommendations and news releases concerning matters such as the recall about which Sharon Stabile had written.
In her comment on our blog, Ms. Maier wrote in pertinent part:
I am an American Heart Instructor. I have been posting updates on the website http://www.defibrillator.net concerning the mandatory field updates released by Cardiac Science. One more problem that must be addressed regarding the update. If the AED’s battery does not have sufficient energy to complete the field upgrade, the unit may fail and the AED user must order a new battery. There is no test to determine whether the battery installed will perform through the upgrade. At the very least Cardiac Science should be supplying free batteries to AED owners to complete their upgrade. But the fact remains that only those end users specified as more likely to use their AED will be sent a new unit. There is a school district that has 22 units in our area. All units need the upgrade. None of their units are being replaced by the recall. What type of training will be provided by Cardiac Science in the event one of their AEDs fail? Recent reports indicate that schools are considered among the best places to have a Sudden Cardiac Arrest in the country since most have AEDs with trained responders. Cardiac Science distributed thousands of AEDs throughout the Ohio Schools subsequent to being awarded the AED Grant a few years ago. Without a replacement on those AEDs, how safe are the Ohio Schools?
These observations and commentary by Ms. Maier are exactly the reason I found Sharon’s blog posting important to publish. I truly didn’t know the depth of the problem with these devices or the recall and its limitations, but I certainly was aware of my own misgivings about the devices and the risks associated with their use by someone such as myself.
While I don’t usually post blogs about comments, I feel that Ms. Maier’s was precisely the kind of first-hand information from which our readers could benefit. How many schools, restaurants, office buildings, malls and the like which have AED’s available to the public for use are even aware of the recall? How many of these public locations have a policy of training responders to use these devices, or other complimentary policies in effect (e.g. periodic maintenance)?
In one of the site’s postings entitled Every School Needs AED Program Management, the author (I don’t know if it’s Ms. Maier or not) makes the following observations:
A panel of medical experts gathered by the National Athletic Trainer Association recommended the school guidelines below for anyplace where emergency medical services treatment isn’t assured within five minutes.
- Establish an emergency communication system so help can be summoned quickly.
- Coordinate their plans with local emergency medical services.
- Ensure that an AED is handy and they establish a short response time – 3 to 5 minutes from anywhere at the site.
- Train staff and students to respond, perform CPR and use the AED.
- Practice their response to a cardiac arrest at least once a year.
- Assume immediately that if an athlete collapses, it’s cardiac arrest.
The article concludes with the following recommendations that should not be overlooked in this whole discussion.
[S]chools should have comprehensive policies that authorize use by any willing rescuer, procedures to check the AED frequently, and signs along with accessibility.
Although it is thought that an untrained person can use an AED within about 90 seconds, training increases the comfort level with using the device and thus increases the likelihood that someone will do so when needed. The chief of the Division of Pediatric Cardiology at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia states “Schools have to have plans. Unless people are trained and go over it and over it, you are not ready to act.”
While these observations and recommendations are made in the context of schools, are they not equally valid and significant for all businesses and locations that have these devices accessible for use? It’s one thing to have a device available, it’s a totally different matter to have devices that are functional, non-defective and usable by those who may find themselves called upon to save the life of someone who has suffered a potentially fatal arrhythmia.
The recall, though highly questionable in terms of its scope, is only of value if those who have such devices are (1) aware of the recall and (2) check their devices to see if they are subject to the recall and take corrective action.
If any of you have other information to share about these devices, the recall, policies and procedures at your institutions or enterprises, it would be a great public service to share your information and thoughts with others. These devices are intended to save lives. If the word doesn’t get out about their limitations, defects and proper use, they may just serve to cause someone’s death. Help get the word out. If you have something important to share, we will certainly publish it and make sure the word gets out.
Would you use an AED if called upon to do so? Would you have a clue how to use it? Is the one you pull down for use really working right? How does training in the use of the device get done? Does your school, gym or office have trained responders? Do you even know if they do? Lot’s of questions, let’s start getting some answers.