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Shock Someone
When They Need It Most!
(Automatic Defibrillator - AF)

By Dr. Peter W. Kujtan, B.Sc., M.D., Ph.D.

Article printed in the March 22-23, 2008 issue. Reprinted on page A2 in the February 3, 2010 issue of The Mississauga News under the feature: Health & Beauty, Medicine Matters.
Portrait of Dr. Peter W. Kujtan, supplied 2005
Dr. Peter W. Kujtan

When I was a youngster, it was a common practice to take first aid training. I did mine with the St. John's Ambulance at age 13. It just made a lot of sense. The basic technical skills of performing mouth to mouth breathing, splinting and bandaging were augmented by something much more important. It provided for me a perspective of how best to organize my thoughts when the adrenalin is pumping during an emergency, and decisions and actions must be measured in seconds.

In the 1970's, I enrolled in a course to learn a new and controversial technique to employ on people experiencing cardiac standstill. It was called cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and today it is commonly known as CPR. It is a technique that has the potential to save many lives. The technique is still evolving, and a new major change is a much greater reliance on performing more compressions compared to breaths.

While attending university, the government was in the process of standardizing emergency services. I earned my way through school by working on the ambulances. It was an eye-opening opportunity that any med student raved about. My first major accident scene came on day 2 of training at the Brampton base, when we were all summoned to the airport in response to a large DC-9 that had overshot the runway on take-off and lay in pieces at the bottom of a ravine. Transporting large groups of casualties to warm hospitals teaming with medical expertise before their golden hour ticked by, defined the essence of one's skill.

Often, it is simple techniques and rational thinking that save lives. Hopefully you have noticed that around our fair city, numerous gadgets are sprouting up mounted in conspicuous cabinets. We have entered the age of the "Automatic Defibrillator" or AF! (Commonly known as AED: Automated external defibrillator). Most arenas and community centers have them, and more public buildings are obtaining them. These things look daunting and difficult to use, but nothing could be further from the truth. They can and do save lives.

An AF is simply a portable heart monitor that is capable of delivering an electric charge to a stopped heart. In most cases, you simply grab the device and push the "ON" button, and listen for a voice prompt to guide you through the next two steps. The first step simply involves removing some pads attached to the device with lead wires and affixing them to the victim's chest. Once that is done, the device will automatically assess the situation and warn you that it will be delivering a shock to the victim. It will not require you to make any type of medical decision, and is set up so that it is virtually impossible to shock a conscious person with a heartbeat.

I would urge all of my readers to take a close look for these AF machines around the city. If you get the opportunity, attend a demonstration of one. Next time that you hear someone cry: "Call 911", consider grabbing the machine and bringing it to the aid of the victim. Let us resolve that in our city no more deaths will occur within visual range of an unused AF! Visit Feel the Beat CPR at www.feelthebeatcpr.com and learn a skill today.

Related resources:

Learn Sarver Heart Center's Continuous Chest Compression CPR. Video, 5:59 min.

Continuous Chest Compression CPR. Mayo Clinic Presentation Video, 2:20 min.

The New CPR Guidelines. The new CPR Proceedure: Saving a life just got easier. The new standards are twofold: 1) Call 911. 2) Push hard and fast in the center of the chest.

Facts on CPR by Jamie Robertson, eHow.com. "Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is an emergency technique used to treat patients who have gone into cardiac arrest."

How to Give CPR from eHow.com.

CPR Videos from eHow.com.

Adult CPR Basics by Kate Evelyn, eHow.com.

How Defibrillators Work. A simple introduction from Explain That Stuff. Illustrated.

Automated external defibrillator from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. "An automated external defibrillator or AED is a portable electronic device that automatically diagnoses the potentially life threatening cardiac arrhythmias . . . in a patient.

Automatic External Defibrillators for Public Access Defibrillation. A Statement for Health Professionals from the American Heart Association Task Force on Automatic External Defibrillation, Subcommittee on AED Safety and Efficacy.

Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) Program at Stanford University. "Automatic External Defibrillators (AED) are a proven method of reducing morbidity and mortality from sudden cardiac arrest (heart attack). An AED is a device that attaches to a victim's chest to assess the heart's rhythm and, if needed, automatically recommends whether or not a shock be delivered to correct the heart's rhythm."

Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) Program - in PDF from Concordia University.

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