In a span of seconds, Dr. Ralla Shrit's happiest day ever became her worst nightmare.
Her 60-year-old father passed away in a Cincinnati hotel ballroom as she was cutting the cake at her wedding reception. Nobody could locate the hotel's automatic external defibrillator, or AED, for ten agonizing minutes.
Shrit's father was able to live and is anticipated to make a full recovery thanks to medical professionals at the wedding who administered CPR until an AED could be found and utilized. She is, however, disappointed that hotel workers took so long to locate the life-saving tool, and she wants to ensure that other people don't lose their lives as a result of such delays during cardiac emergencies in public settings.
According to Clifton Callaway, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the American Heart Association's Emergency Cardiovascular Care Committee, Shrit's experience highlights the urgent need to increase access to AEDs and educate the public on how to save lives.
Anybody may use an automated defibrillator to save a life, just like anyone can perform CPR.
The common misunderstanding is that using an AED requires special training, yet any member of the public can do so in an emergency. I taught my daughter's fourth-grade class CPR and how to use an AED. "If a 10-year-old can use it, any member of the general public can," I said. "The AED leads a lay responder through the stages using spoken audio cues."
AEDs can still not save lives if they are not used.
"It's tragic that an AED isn't used when a cardiac arrest occurs just a few yards from one. Perhaps onlookers or 911 call takers are unaware that it is available," Kurz speculated.
According to Kurz, most AEDs cost between $1,200 and $1,500. The AHA advises anyone who purchases an AED to let the local EMS office know so that 911 dispatchers are aware of its location.
Kurz, a former chair of the AHA's Telephone-CPR task group, stated that if someone calls 911 and reports that "This individual is in cardiac arrest," dispatchers now have a set of criteria by which they can give CPR instructions.
"Everyone who suffers cardiac arrest should receive information on how to perform CPR on bystanders and over the phone." A preventable fatality occurs when they don't, he said. "CPR education has come a long way, but there is still a way to go."