It is estimated that sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) kills approximately 250,000-500,000 people in the United States each year. Of those, an estimated 7,000-10,000 are young people, most often athletes.
This is one reason that Jon Christensen, a medical student at the University of South Dakota, has embarked upon a campaign regarding public access defibrillation, through which he is promoting the use of automated external defibrillators (AEDs) and CPR.
AEDs are devices that automatically diagnose cardiac arrest and apply an electric shock that helps the heart to resume beating, and are often found in public places such as schools, churches and businesses.
�It�s been proven to be pretty easy to use,� Christensen said.
Not only that, they are accurate, only providing a shock when it is required, he said.
�For example, if somebody is passed out and you don�t know if they�re in cardiac arrest, if there�s an AED there you can put it on,� he said. �If the person has a pulse and they�re breathing � it won�t shock them. Whereas, if the person is not breathing and doesn�t have a pulse, it will shock them.
�It has eradicated inappropriate shocks,� he said.
Christensen � who also is an EMT and a volunteer fireman � said survival rates increase up to 90 percent if a person is defibrillated within the first minute.
�For each minute that passes, there�s actually a 10 percent reduction of survival. So that kind of stresses the importance of early defibrillation,� he said.
This is why it is so important for AEDs to be readily available in public places, he said.
However, this is not always the case.
When he was working on his thesis project two years ago, Christensen took a survey of most of the AA schools in the state in regard to the presence of AEDs.
�I think about 90 to 95 percent of the high schools have an AED, so the schools are looking great,� he said. �The public places � that includes libraries, government buildings � about 60 percent of those have them.�
Businesses have the lowest placement, he said � about 15-25 percent.
�It demonstrates that there�s still a need to try to improve the placement of AEDs,� he said. �This is a saying I�ve come across in the research: �For every fire extinguisher you see out there, the goal is to have an AED next to it.� That way, no matter where you are, it�s always available in an emergency situation.�
The local 911 dispatcher also has a list of locations that house AEDs, and so can inform the caller on their location and use, if necessary.
Some of the biggest barriers to the placement of AEDs are financial, although Christensen said he is working on a way to purchase them in bulk at a reduced price.
Liability concerns play a factor, too.
�(Businesses) are concerned that if they use one there will be a liability there. They�re also concerned that, if they have one and it doesn�t get used, that they could be liable for negligence,� he said.
But under the Good Samaritan Law, businesses are protected if the AEDs are used or not, he said.
�It protects the building who has one, and the person who uses it in that situation,� he said.
Christensen is helping to spread the word about AEDs and their use through presentations at businesses, schools and other public places, and offers to help set up classes on the subject for interested parties.
There also is a plan to set up a booth at public events, such as the upcoming Activity Day at the University of South Dakota, Christensen said.
Information about CPR also will be on-hand.
�CPR has never been easier,� Christensen said. �All they say is to push hard and fast in the upper chest. So, in two minutes you can really give someone the basic (information).�
For more information about AEDs and CPR, or to coordinate a class about one or the other, Christensen may be contacted at Jon.Christensen@usd.edu.
Further information is available at vermillionems.com.