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Shortage Of Defibrillators Costing Lives

February 10, 2009, 5:18 PM by Kelli Grant

Shortage Of Defibrillators Costing Lives
Twelve-hundred Americans die every day from sudden cardiac arrest. That adds up to more than 450,000 victims each year. But, those numbers don't have to be that high; in fact, changes are already underway in South Dakota.
A simple machine, that takes only seconds to use, could save up to 50,000 lives every year. But a shortage is creating a serious life-and-death issue. 

In the best shape of his life and on the verge of making the U.S. Olympic Wrestling team, Joe Heskett was working out on this mat when he suddenly collapsed. 

It was only because paramedics used a defibrillator that Heskett survived; it is something he's walked past hundreds of times at the gym and barely noticed. 

"Now I know, first hand, why something like that is important to have around. So no, I never thought about the significance of it. Now, I think about it every day," Heskett said. 

The problem is there just aren't that many of the machines around and few people have been trained to use them. They're called AEDs, and if there were more, more patients like Heskett would be alive today. 

"There's good evidence that putting AEDs in public buildings, office buildings, shopping malls, hotels and the like will double the victim's chance of survival," Ohio State University Medical Center Dr. Michael Sayre said. 

The thought of using an AED can be intimidating, but many models have a voice recording that helps you step-by-step.  Even though they deliver an electric shock to the patient, they can't shock you. 

"Of course, they're a bit concerned about what might happen, but really they're very easy to use. I am confident I could teach anyone to use one within less than 5 minutes,” Dr. Sayre said. 

It's five minutes that could have a lifetime impact. 

The American Heart Association has a goal to put an AED no more than 3 minutes away from anyone who might need it.  Tuesday, the South Dakota House Health and Human Services Committee took a step toward that goal. In a unanimous vote, they passed a bill encouraging AED's in all South Dakota schools, on school athletic fields and it encourages schools to provide training to use the machines.

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