I saved a life

downloadA few years ago, the company I worked for decided it might be a good thing to install a few AED devices around our campus. AED stands for Automatic External Defibrillator.

If you’ve watched those TV shows with paramedics that put paddles on a person’s chest and shout “Clear!” and then shock someone, then you know pretty much what an AED device does.

We were at the Wilton Manors bowling alley the other day for the regular Wednesday Prime Timers bowling event. The Ft. Lauderdale chapter of Prime Timers is one of the largest in the country, and as the name might imply, it’s a group of older guys who get together for various social events. In general, we have a great time.

It’s a bit early in the season, not quite all the snowbirds have arrived, but we had enough people to fill 4 lanes, and a good time was had by all. As we were getting ready to leave, we were having the usual banter about who was going to lunch and where, when the desk manager of the bowling alley came rushing by and mentioned that someone down the alley was having a heart attack.

Sure enough, a few lanes down from us, there was a heavy set guy stretched out on the approach apron, with his head jammed up against the control pedestal. The desk man pointed out that he had an AED – and he proceeded to dial 911.

There were probably a dozen of us guys standing around, and they all did nothing. No one rushed to help the guy, they just stood there, doing a pretty good job of imitating a bunch of confused old guys who had no clue what to do. Don’t get me wrong – I think this is the same reaction that 9 out of 10 Americans would have anywhere – everyone seems afraid to do anything, no one want’s to take charge. I guess that is why both times I’ve ever served on a jury, I’ve been jury foreman.

This guy was starting to turn awful colors, so I grabbed the AED and headed off to help.

The thing about these AED’s is that whoever thought them up did a damn fine job of it. They are made specifically for people who have no clue as to what they are doing. Sure, it helps if you have training, but even if you have no idea what to do, all you have to do is grab that spot that says “PULL” and ..well, pull. The device immediately starts talking to you in a very loud and clear voice and tells you exactly what to do.

The first thing it tells you to do is to remove the clothing from the victim, including the instructions to cut it off if needed. There is even a handy pair of scissors and a razor blade in the device to help. Trust me on this – if someone is having a heart attack and laying on the floor unconscious, there is no such thing as modesty. They would much rather that you ripped off their shirt, cut off their blouse – whatever – just get them awake again. Don’t be worried about modesty.

This guy was wearing a t-shirt, so I just pulled it up around his armpits — there was someone brave enough to help me – and for the life of me I have no idea who it was.

I peeled the adhesive off of each electrode, and looked briefly at the diagram on the box as to where to place them. Each AED device is a bit different – but just look at the pictures – it’s practically stupid proof. This guy was only moderately hairy — if they are a true bear, there is a razor to shave off some hair so that the pads stick. Trust me – a dry shave is better than dying because someone was afraid to use the razor. I didn’t need it on this guy.

Once you get the pads on, the device actually knows what you have done – and it proceeds to “analyze” the patient. If the victim does not need to be shocked, then the device will recognize this and tell you. In this case, this guy needed a shock – and the device told me so, and then told me to press the orange button. It warned that no one should be touching the victim. I pressed  the button and the guy immediately rose about an inch off the floor and settled back down again.

The AED device then instructs you to begin CPR, starting with chest compression’s. It even emits a metronome sound to indicate how fast you should be bouncing victim’s chest. In the AED class we were told that you need to compress about 2 inches – and sometimes you might actually break a rib. This is considered normal and nothing to be concerned about. Ribs can heal.

After about 25 or 30 compression’s, the color started to return to the guys face, and his eyes popped open. They were amazingly blue.

The AED device signaled that I should begin mouth-to-mouth, but the guy was awake and breathing on his own. In our certification class, our instructor told us that mouth-to-mouth was optional these days, in most cases, the chest compression’s are enough to get air into the victim, so mouth to mouth isn’t really required if you are a bit squeamish.

The paramedics arrived and took over – and I got the shakes and had to sit down. But, this guy lived, and apparently I’m the reason why he is having a Thanksgiving this year. AED_sign

I’ve done a lot of terrible things in my life, but this helps make some of them a bit easier to tolerate. Doesn’t wipe my slate clean, but it does make me realize that I have purpose, even if I don’t always know what it might be.

Look for the signs for AED devices. If you go someplace where people gather regularly and you don’t see one, ask the management why they don’t have them. Sure, they are expensive, but so are lives. That AED device may sit in the cabinet and never get used – but all it takes is a single time and it has more than paid for itself.

If you have an opportunity, take training in how to use one, but don’t let that stand in your way. Take the initiative, open the box – and let it lead you to saving a life.


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