So Near, Yet So Far
According to the September 12, 2004 story in the Macon (Georgia) Telegraph,when rising football star Ryan Boslet suffered sudden cardiac arrest(SCA) during a workout at his school gym on February 20, 2003, the AEDthe school had only recently purchased wasn't used - even though it wasjust the length of a basketball court away in the athletic director'soffice - because a staff member couldn't find the adhesive electrodepads, which were tucked under a flap inside the AED. Thinking thedevice was inoperable, coaches called 911, and administered CPR to the6-foot-4, 270 pound defensive tackle, but the 17-year old died laterthat day.Larger Problem
Boslet'sdeath, said the story, points to a larger problem: "Ordinarypeople, even with training, often can't use the increasingly populardefibrillators under the pressure of an emergency."
Experts say even trainedoperators can falter if they don't regularly train on AEDs. Merelyhaving the devices is not enough. Interviewed for the Telegraph article, MaryFran Hazinski of the American Heart Association, noted that, while the"device is very simple, ... the situation is not very common. When youfind yourself in the midst of an emergency situation, it's easy to getflustered."
People need to be familiarenough with the AED through training - and retraining - to use themquickly enough to provide an SCA victim the best chance of survival,Hazinski said. A defibrillator certification program involves afour-hour course and needs to be renewed every two years. Refreshertraining should occur every 60 to 90 days.
Recent studies seem to draw opposite conclusions:
An article in the July 2004 issue of the journal Prehospital Emergency Care reported that volunteers had trouble opening the AED and failed to properly place the pads that deliver the shock that can restore heart rhythm;
A study published in the December 2003 issue of the Journal of Dental Education found that AEDs were used only slightly more than a third of the time by rescuers in places where the devices were nearby;
The same study found that four out of five non-health workers couldn't use AEDs properly when training on mannequins;
Yet an article in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that, with the help of visual and verbal prompts from an AED, six people with no prior AED training were able to use the devices to revive SCA victims at Chicago's airports - including the busy O'Hare International Airport.