Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Defibrillators save lives

If you have a heart attack then the best chance of you not dying on the spot is if someone can get a defibrillator to treat you within 5 minutes. For every minute after an attack your chances of survival without such treatment drops by 14%.

CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and "mouth to mouth" is still important as a last resort but in comparison with defibrillators this does not save as many lives.

Defibrillators are small hand held safe electronic devices that automatically diagnoses life threatening conditions and applies a treatment that can restart someones heart. It saves lives without further risk to the person you are helping or yourself. There are no real legal risks for you or your organisation (unless you are completely stupid and act in a grossly negligent manner).

I have signed up to this public e-petiton call for all public buildings to install defibrillators and train staff. This petition came about after the tragic death of teenager Oliver King and points out that it is not only older people who are at risk but 12 youngsters die every week from Sudden Adult Death Syndrome (SADS).  The footballer Fabrice Muamba who dramatically collapsed in March was saved by a defibrillator.

As I have mentioned before my father (aged 72) had a heart attack in a high street. He was given CPR and mouth to mouth by a trained first aider but was certified dead when he arrived in hospital (he was doing a 14 day long distance walk and camping out wild which he had been warned by his GP not to do so but that is another matter). My family have wondered whether or not if a defibrillator had been available it would have made any difference? We will never know but the evidence suggests it could have done if carried out within this 5 minute window.

I have spoken to Monica who is our Regional Equalities officer and a fully qualified NHS nurse who has carried out CPR and saved lives through defibrillation and Eric who is the very experienced paramedic branch secretary of the London Ambulance Service, both fully support lay people being trained to use defibrillators and they believe it will save lives.

My employer at our joint health and safety committee has agreed to look into providing defibrillators at our offices and training staff. I would encourage all employees to do the same.

NB To be clear if you come across someone who appears to be having a heart attack and there is no defibrillator available and you have not been trained to do CPR then follow the advice of my London Welsh compatriot Vinnie!

Hat tip Jake Morrison
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