With 53 defibrillators now placed by the Heartstart Thatcham team and many more to come we continue to hear things being said about Automated External Defibrillators (AED) that are simply wrong. So this post should clarify some of the issues. Briefly, if someone has a cardiac arrest you need to (1) get help, (2) start CPR and (3) get an AED. Time is critical here, the faster you act the better their chance of survival.
Disclaimer: we are not medical experts if you are in need of assistance please seek professional medical advice.
Myth 1: You need to be trained to use an AED
No. An AED is designed to be used by anyone. They are made publicly accessible for that very reason. When you get an AED to the scene switch it on. The AED will actually tell you what to do.
Myth 2: I should wait for an ambulance
No. That is the whole point in making AEDs available to the public. You can use them before professional help arrives. Every second counts.To put this in some context there are in excess of 30,000 (BHF) cardiac arrests every year in the UK that happen outside of the hospital environment. Out of that less than 10% (BHF) will survive, that is less than 3,000 out of the 30,000. In addition to this there is the fact that while someone is in cardiac arrest their chance of survival decreases by at least 10% for every minute that passes without intervention. Getting help and starting CPR immediately is a priority and where available getting an AED to the scene can significantly improve the survival rates.
Myth 3: It could make things worse.
No. If the casualty is in cardiac arrest you cannot make things worse. Step in and give the casualty a fighting chance.
Myth 4: AEDs are placed in locked cabinets for professionals to access them
No. AEDs are placed in cabinets to make them publicly accessible. Some cabinets require that a code be used to access them. The way you access them is to dial 999, once the operator knows the casualty is in cardiac arrest they will tell you if there is an AED available, and if there is where it is and how to access it.
Myth 5: Cardiac Arrest and Heart Attack are the same
No. A cardiac arrest is where the heart has stopped pumping blood around the body, it is an electrical problem with the heart. This is different to a heart attack, which is a circulatory (plumbing) problem. A cardiac arrest casualty is essentially dead, a Heart Attack casualty is typically still conscious and breathing, they may have chest pain, may be sweating, may have pain in the arms and so on. A Heart Attack may lead to a cardiac arrest. See this British Heart Foundation page to learn more.
Myth 6: Using an AED is difficult
No. The AED has simple instructions printed on it and when you turn it on it will speak to you and tell you what to do. We have had people as young as 10 years old on the course and we have even had much younger people try when we have been at public events.