Many people will have noticed, over the past couple of years, brightly coloured boxes appearing outside pubs, public buildings and garden centres; our local Scout headquarters has one.
Usually there is a key-code attached to a lock.
Do most people know what these are?
AED which is short for Automated External Defibrillator is a device used to re-start the heart of a person who is experiencing Ventricular Fibrillation – sometimes called ‘VF’.
Most people today in the UK died of frailty and old age; slipping away in a care home or hospital from the complications of long-term health conditions – diabetes, COPD and vascular disease.
Despite this shift, the numbers of relatively younger people experiencing sudden death has remained quite stable.
In the UK, approximately 30,000 people experience a cardiac arrest every year.
This is when the heart stops pumping blood round the body.
The only thing that can be done at these times is to start Basic Life Support.
If a person is unresponsive – they don’t respond to a vigorous shake and there is no breathing, you should start Basic Life Support – this is chest compressions and rescue breaths.
Without Basic Life Support and potential defibrillation all people die from cardiac arrest.
In the UK our outcomes are worse than other countries; only about ten per cent of people live following such an event.
What should you do if someone collapses?
Ideally, beforehand you should have attended a course in Basic Life Support. There are regular courses run across the country – Google for details*. It is expected that everyone working in the NHS (all 1.4 million of us) should attend a resuscitation course each year.
If you have not attended a course, the advice, as per Vinnie Jones is to undertake chest compressions – this helps to maintain blood flowing around the body and most critically to the brain; more than a few minutes of cardiac arrest without chest compressions can lead to irreversible brain damage.
The usual guidance is as follows:
- Check that someone is in a state of cardiac arrest – no response and no breathing.
- Call for help
- Start CPR
If someone is with you and they know where an AED is located, whilst they are calling an ambulance (dial 999 and say ‘cardiac arrest’), they can get the code for the AED from the people on the phone and bring it to the collapsed person.
You attack a sticker to the chest and the left side of the body (there are pictures on the machine), switch it on and listen for advice – you will be told to either continue chest compressions or ‘stand-back, delivering a shock’.
Essentially, you do what the machine tells you until help arrives.
Many people, despite our best efforts will not recover, although for some this could be the difference between life or death.
*As to where to find an AED – I myself have not been able to find a useful website or App; if anyone knows one that works reliably in the UK, please let me know. I have struggled to find local BLS courses too – I will post on our website as soon as I can find one in Maltby.