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Sunday, October 04, 2015 
Learn about Defibrillators

Back in February 2015, Dick Tracey from the South Central Ambulance Service gave us a very informative talk about defibrillators and their use.  He began by distinguishing heart attack from Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA). A heart attack is caused by a circulation or plumbing problem of the heart, when one (or more) of the arteries delivering blood to the heart is blocked. You do not necessarily die from this condition. In the case of SCA, the heart has stopped beating, the patient is unconscious and is technically already dead. It is caused by an unexpected failure in the heart's ability to effectively pump blood to the brain and around the body. It is usually caused by life-threatening arrhythmias - abnormalities in the heart's electrical system. The only definitive treatment for SCA is defibrillation - an electric current that "shocks" the heart so that a normal rhythm may resume. This "shock" must be delivered within minutes of the arrest to successfully prevent death. Chances of survival reduce 7-10% each minute that passes without Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) followed by defibrillation.

Dick went on to deliver some hard-hitting statistics about incidents of (SCA), including:

  • 700,000 cases of significant heart problems in the EU;
  • 300,000 of these are in the UK; 
  • 100,000 people die from SCA in the UK but 85% of these could have survived with early intervention; 
  • only 4-5% of SCA victims can be saved by the ambulance service where no other first aid has been administered.
The ambulance is likely to be coming from some distance away, which is why defibrillator availability is so crucial

A Public Access Defibrillator can be used without any form of training. It is housed in a special external secured cabinet, the code for which you will be given when you phone 999. The defibrillator talks you, step by step, through the procedure and will not move on until the previous step has been successfully executed. It will NOT deliver a shock if the heart does not require it. After a demonstration, Dick opened up the floor to a question and answer session, a summary of which is below. 

However, if you missed that, or would like to see a short defibrillator demonstration session then come to the Pavilion on 9 May at 10:00. Please contact us if you might be interested. The previous Q&A session included the following.

Q. Is there a risk of liability for a member of the public using a defibrillator?
A. No-one has been sued to date. N.B. The Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Act passed into law on 12 February 2015. This Bill is intended to reassure people that if they are acting for the benefit of society, intervening in an emergency or demonstrating a generally responsible approach towards the safety of others then, if something goes wrong and they are sued, the court will take full account of the context of their actions.

Q. Is there adequate mobile phone coverage in the area to call 999?
A. Provided one of the mobile network providers has signal cover then, even if your own does not, you are still able to make emergency calls. P.S. Several audience members demonstrated that they had a signal, even if not everyone did.

Q. What if there are a limited number of people around when SCA occurs?
A. It is essential to call 999 immediately. Therefore if you are alone, this should be done before commencing CPR. That person must continue, regardless of not being able to access a defibrillator. If a second person is available, one should commence CPR whilst the second dials 999 and then goes for the defibrillator.

Q. If you know that the person has a pace maker, should you still use a defibrillator on them?
A. Yes. 

Thank you to everyone who has donated so far. We are now in the lucky position of having bought TWO defibrillators, plus their secure cabinets, which we plan to install once final permissions have been given. We are continuing to fund raise with the intention of putting the extra funds towards some subsidised first aid courses for the community. Once we have planned these, we will let you know the details. Meantime, you can learn more information about the defibrillator by clicking here

As a reminder, you can donate on-line via a link on www.stokerow.net. The collection point for cheques and cash remains in Stoke Row Stores, where there are spare donation forms. 

Jo Lowe and Rita Gregory

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