For someone going into cardiac arrest, the chances of survival decrease 7 to 10 percent for each minute that passes without the use of an automated external difibrillator (AED). Sandy Richmond, a unit secretary for Atrium Health’s Behavioral Health Davidson, tells her story about how critical thinking and proper AED use saved her life.

News, Your Health | 5 months ago

Knowledge Is Power: Help Save a Life Through AED Education

For someone going into cardiac arrest, the chances of survival decrease 7 to 10 percent for each minute that passes without the use of an AED. Here, Sandy tells her story about how critical thinking and proper AED use saved her life. 

For someone going into cardiac arrest, the chances of survival decrease 7 to 10 percent for each minute that passes without the use of an automated external difibrillator (AED). Sandy Richmond, a unit secretary for Atrium Health’s Behavioral Health Davidson, tells her story about how critical thinking and proper AED use saved her life. Would you know what to do if you saw someone unexpectedly fall to the ground and stop breathing or show signs of unconsciousness? Chances are, a person with these symptoms is experiencing sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). In these instances, time is everything. If an SCA victim doesn’t receive CPR and defibrillator treatment within three to five minutes after the collapse, the outcome can be fatal.

Sandra "Sandy" Richmond, a Unit Secretary for Atrium Health’s Behavioral Health Davidson, experienced this firsthand when she received the shock of her life – literally – after she went to badge back into her unit and suddenly fell unconscious on October 18, 2017.

Given the circumstances, Sandy was lucky. She collapsed in a medical facility surrounded by all the right tools and equipment. From there, several of her teammates jumped into action to administer AED shock treatment, ultimately saving her life.

Importance of AED treatment

An automated external defibrillator (AED) is a portable electronic device that automatically diagnoses potentially life-threatening heart abnormalities. AEDs provide simple audio and visual commands to read a person’s heart rhythm and give clear instructions of what to do in the event of cardiac arrest. If the AED reads that a person’s heart may benefit from electric shock, it administers a shock to restore a normal heart rhythm.

In Sandy’s case, she received two shock treatments before she regained a pulse. Thirty-five minutes later, the ambulance arrived – a sure sign that had her teammates not jumped into action, the outcome would’ve been very different.

"The right people were in the right place at the right time," says nurse Julie Barnes, RN. Sandy was one of a staggering 2 percent of victims that experience SCA and effectively receive AED treatment from bystanders before paramedics arrive. For every minute that passes, the chances of survival decrease significantly.

Where to find AED devices

AEDs are lifesaving, but a number of people don’t know where they’re located and how to find them in the event of an emergency. Many walk by without noticing them, but they’re largely available in most high-traffic public areas. Schools, medical offices, malls, sports venues and major transportation terminals should all have AEDs available within their locations.

How do you know what to look for? AED boxes can be red, white or yellow. They usually have a heart with a lightning bolt on it, and they usually say AED on the front and sometimes the sides of the box. In many cases, the AED is programmed to automatically alert a 911 dispatcher when it’s removed from its location. For this reason, it’s important to never remove an AED from its location in a nonemergency instance.

Life after cardiac arrest

For those who survive cardiac arrest, returning to a normal life can be challenging. While a person may return to their normal routines physically, they may have trouble recovering emotionally. "A lot of the long-term effects are psychological," says Rohit Mehta, MD, a cardiac electrophysiologist at Atrium Health’s Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute.

"For myself, there have been some challenges," says Sandy. For instance, "Everyday tasks like driving in the car or being home alone made me nervous at first. Luckily, I now feel back to my old self!"

Psychological help is part of the recovery process and is available to those who are in need.

"The whole event made me realize how precious life is and how quickly it can be over," says Sandy. "I can’t say enough how appreciative I am of my teammates for jumping in like clockwork and giving me the opportunity to go back home to my family."

Cardiac arrest can happen to anyone, regardless of medical history, age, sex or race. There are no signs or symptoms leading up to it. But by educating yourself on where AEDs are located and how to use one, you too can help save a life.

 

A healthy heart lets you stay focused on doing what you love. Learn how Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute can help you keep your heart healthy.