Wednesday, March 10, 1999

Boone company invests in device that saves lives

Anyone can learn to use defibrillator

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        BURLINGTON — “Apply pads to patient's bare chest ... Analyzing heart rhythm ... Shock advised, stay clear of patient ... Deliver shock now.

        That's what nine Skilcraft employees heard from a small machine called an “automated external defibrillator” (AED) Tuesday during a company safety training class.

        On two dummies, the group practiced how to use the device, which is about the size and weight of a laptop computer and is used to deliver an electric shock to the heart of a victim of sudden cardiac arrest.

        “This is the first company that we know of in Northern Kentucky to use an AED in an industrial setting,” said Laura Randall, executive director of Northern Kentucky Emergency Medical Services, an organization that provides health and safety training. “It's a tribute to the company that they are being so proactive.”

        Although firefighters and police officers have used the devices for several years, it is only recently that AEDs have begun gaining popularity in the workplace.

        The machines, similar to the devices seen on medical television shows, are designed for lay people to use after they receive training, Ms. Randall said.

        The device can be bought only with a doctor's prescription.

        After the machine is turned on, it walks the person through the process verbally and says whether or not a shock is needed by monitoring the victim's heart rhythm. If shock is needed, the machine instructs the operator to push a button. If there is no need for shock, it won't allow one.

        It also gives instructions for giving CPR.

        “There are only a few rhythms where the machine will allow a shock,” Ms. Randall said.

        Sudden cardiac arrest, or when the heart's electrical impulses suddenly become chaotic, is when the machine is effective, she said. Nationwide, about 350,000 deaths occur annually as a result of this condition.

        “The most frequent cause of cardiac arrest is the sudden onset of a deadly heart rhythm called ventricular fibrillation,” she said. “Although CPR helps to keep the brain and other organs alive, the only effective treatment for ventricular fi brillation is electrical defibrillation.”

        Dewain Brock of Independence has worked for Skilcraft, a company that produces custom sheet metal, for 11 years.

        “It seems pretty simple,” he said after trying out the device. “I'm in my mid-40s, and I'm probably right at that risk factor. I know that if I went down, this could help.”

        The devices, which are $3,400 to $4,000 per unit, are well worth the cost for protecting his 75 employees, said Ken Anderson, Skilcraft's executive vice president.

        Mr. Anderson, who has had bypass surgery, recently at tended an American Red Cross seminar about AEDs. “They emphasized the importance of having the equipment available immediately. We just got to a point where we think it's a great asset for the company.”

        About six years ago, an employee had a heart attack on the floor. He lived but had to retire.

        “I'm not saying the defibrillator would have been the right thing for him, but it also tells you how to do CPR,” Mr. Anderson said.

        He hopes the trend catches on at other companies, he said.


        For more information about automated external defibrillators or how to buy one for your company, call NKEMS at 572-4511.


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