Monday, December 11, 2000

Everyday folks learn to jump-start hearts

By Earnest Winston
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Heather Wendeln got down on both knees, placed two white electrode patches on a mannequin's chest and listened as a device the size of a laptop computer warned: “Stand clear.”

        Ms. Wendeln, director of health and fitness at the Clippard branch of the YMCA of Greater Cincinnati in Colerain Township, knows she may someday have to use the defibrillator on a human being.

        Last week, she and other YMCA employees were trained on how to use por table defibrillators and perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

        “It's good to know I can do more ... and hopefully save that person's life,” she said.

        Two defibrillators were placed in the YMCA as part of a national study to test expanded use of the lifesaving devices in public facilities, where more than 50,000 Americans die of sudden cardiac arrest each year.

        The University of Cincinnati Medical Center, which is administering the study locally, is training everyday workers in Cincinnati — rather than medi cal professionals — to operate the defibrillators.

  Atrium Two, Music Hall, Kenwood Towne Centre, General Electric Park, Tri-County Mall, Green Township Senior Center, Kenwood Country Club, Tower Place, Kroger stores, Cincinnati Museum Center, Ivy Hills Country Club, Green Township Center, College of Mount St. Joseph, Firstar Tower, St. Paul Village, U.S. Postal Service Distribution Center, Albert B. Sabin Cincinnati Convention Center and YMCA branches.
        Half of the 40 participating sites have or will randomly receive defibrillators; the others will receive CPR training.

        “One place has called me and said that they had to use their training because a person collapsed at the mall,” said UC research assistant Michael Ottaway.

        The growing use of portable defibrillators is one of medicine's most promising ways of improving emergency first aid for people whose hearts suddenly stop beating. Electrodes attached to a victim's chest can deliver an electrical shock strong enough to jump-start a failing heart.

        About 250,000 Americans a year suffer cardiac arrest, which is most likely to affect men in their 60s.

Time is crucial
               Still, many people are uncertain about using the device, which weighs about 5 pounds and costs $3,000. “Two years ago, they changed the Good Samaritan Act (in Ohio) to cover the use of (automated external defibrillators) by the general public,” said Capt. Greg Brown, head of emergency medical service for the Colerain Township Fire Department. “So anybody who uses an AED in the field, they have no legal liability in case of wrongdoing.”

        Dr. Mickey Eisenberg, director of emergency medical service at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle, said the defibrillators are “extremely easy to use and extremely safe.”

        “In most parts of the country, waiting for the fire department or the ambulance service to arrive is too long of a time interval. There's no chance to save the person,” Dr. Eisenberg said.

        In Cincinnati, emergency medical officials reach cardiac arrest patients about 8.5 minutes from the time 911 officials get the call. About 7 percent of victims are saved, UC officials said.

        Defibrillation is most successful if used within three minutes of a cardiac arrest. Chances of survival are reduced by 10 percent every minute after cardiac arrest. Defibrillation usually fails after 10 minutes.

        Twenty-four centers in the United States and Canada are participating in the $25 million, 30- month study, which is being funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and the American Heart Association.

        In two recent studies using portable defibrillators, survival rates were 53 percent and 40 percent for victims of cardiac arrest who were treated almost immediately.


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