The Automated External Defibrillator (AED) is a device that uses electrical currents to correct a lethal heart rhythm. In many people, cardiac arrest is a one-way venture that occurs suddenly and sometimes rapidly. Sometimes the symptoms of a heart attack go unnoticed or is ignored and a lethal rhythm such as ventricular fibrillation or ventricular tachycardia occurs which prevents the proper contraction of the heart. Other lethal rhythms are possible, but these are the ones that can be corrected with an AED. This improper contraction of the heart does not allow for adequate perfusion and if not corrected quickly will become irreversible and the heart sustains a flatline rhythm called asystole. Asystole is a rhythm that is sometimes greater than one hundred percent fatal without immediate intervention.
Ventricular fibrillation or ventricular tachycardia needs electrical correction with an AED. The AED is located in plain sight at private and municipal buildings across the country, and the world. The machines are easy to operate as the instructions are clearly labeled. A voice directs the user in a step-by-step method on how to apply the pads and push the button that releases the currents. When the AED is used properly, and without delay, the chances of survival increases sometimes dramatically. However, some animosity exist on who should use the AED, and when to use it when hazards are present. Some hazards include using it in water, snow, high grass, or under the blazing heat of the sun.
When using the AED, good Samaritans should consider their situation and scan the area of hazards. If the patient is in water, he or she may have drowned. If the victim is still in the water, remove them, if you can. Always try to find help because removing people from water could be extremely hazardous for the good Samaritan. Once the victim has been removed, dry them off as much as possible, then apply the AED. The AED must not be used while the victim is in the water.
If the victim is laying on snow which is in powder form, and the snow is all around where the victim cannot be removed to a dry surface, the AED can be used. The snow will not cause much of a problem because it is not in liquid form. Once the snow begins to melt and there is thick powder form in other areas that are near the victim, move them to the powder form.
Sometimes people collapse in tall grass and when someone wants to help them, they realize that the tall grass is everywhere. This makes it difficult to move the victim to shorter grass. If this is the case, place the victim in a supine position (on their back) and place the AED on them by following the prompts or use your training from a Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) class. Be aware that tall grass sometimes brings critters, such as snakes or other animals. These other animals may be dangerous. So always think of your safety beyond that of your victim because if you are attacked or injured, you are useless to that victim.
In other situations of people collapsing, one reason may be because it was too hot. Heat stroke that goes untreated can lead to ventricular fibrillation or ventricular tachycardia. Immediate defibrillation with the AED will undoubtedly make a difference, if used early. However, the same reason that dropped the victim to the ground will drop the good Samaritan, and that would be the sun.
The heat of the sun is extremely hazardous. Therefore, to help a victim of cardiac arrest, moving them to a cooler place is the best method of care for the both. The victim will probably have second- or third-degree burns, mostly likely from the sun and the person helping may notice that the victim’s skin is extremely hot. Take a bottle of water and pour it on the victims’ head, face and chest. Dry their chest off and place the AED pads. In addition, find shade for the victim and yourself while attempting to help.
The AED is a useful and affective tool to be used in the fight on cardiac arrest. Most importantly, CPR must be used in conjunction with the AED. When used together, they are an effective tool when applied properly, and rapidly. The victim of cardiac arrest depends on good Samaritans making fast and appropriate decisions to sustain or bring back to life a victim of cardiac arrest. Lastly, always make safe decisions when the need to help someone else arises.