A Case Western Reserve University community member is walking around campus when he suddenly passes out. His breathing is shallow and he clutches his chest. He appears to be in the middle of cardiac arrest—a heart attack.
If this scenario had taken place last year, passerby would have to anxiously await an emergency response team to assist the victim. Now, campus members can possibly save a life while waiting for help to arrive.
According to Brian Hurd, associate director of university police and security services, the university recently purchased 23 portable Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs). The lightweight, easy-to-use devices are now installed around campus.
AEDs allow for a lay person to respond quickly during a crisis. According to the American Heart Association, a sudden cardiac arrest victim's chances of survival are reduced by 7 to 10 percent with every minute of delay until defibrillation.
"In addition to CPR, the use of AEDs is another way anyone—not just a trained medical person—can save a life," said Joe Laskowski, who helps coordinate the Emergency Cardiovascular Care Programs out of the American Heart Association's Cleveland chapter. "As a matter of fact, if someone goes into cardiac arrest and is not in a hospital their chances of survival are about 5 percent. If lay persons learn CPR and how to use portable AEDs, we can save lives. We applaud the university for their efforts."
The AED project is a grassroots initiative that has been several years in the making and spearheaded by several employees, the university's Wellness Initiative, and Case EMS, the university's student-run emergency response program.
"This is about personal consciousness of health. We're concerned about everyone in the campus community," said Alan Pollack, a research assistant with the biology department who is part of the Staff Advisory Council's communications committee. He added that the desire to help university members and visitors to campus in the event of an emergency was a major factor in the AED initiative.
By addressing this as a community health initiative, the university is joining the ranks of larger venues. "The devices are already installed in places like airports and malls. We're beginning to expect this in public places," explained John Clochesy, Independence Foundation Professor of Nursing Education and faculty adviser to Case EMS.
AED education on campus will primarily be the responsibility of Case EMS. According to Larissa Shnayder, Case EMS chief, several training sessions will be held soon. In addition, campus organizations and departments are invited to contact Case EMS to ask for a demonstration. Also, there are discussions about incoming first-year students and new university employees receiving the information during future orientations.
David Schechtman, a nursing student who is a member of Case EMS, said once the device is opened a series of verbal instructions will dictate how to assist the victim. "The person puts it on, and the machine will do everything. You remove the person's shirt and you apply the pads. Even if you're nervous, the machine explains what to do," he said.
Case EMS members said it's best to reach for the AED during an emergency. "If you know someone is unresponsive, get the device. It's better to do more than not enough," explained Jennifer Bloss, a nursing student and assistant chief of Case EMS. The AED has built in safety mechanisms for both the rescuer and victim. In addition, if a rescuer puts the pads on the victim and the person is not in need of assistance, the device will not work.
During an emergency, the rescuer should first call 368-3333, which connects to the university's police department. Then, the rescuer should grab the AED. While help is on the way, dispatchers will assist Case EMS in determining the location of the person in need. While Case EMS workers are stabilizing the patient, Cleveland emergency response teams should already be in route. The Case EMS team works Thursday through Sunday only, so Cleveland emergency response teams will always be contacted.
In addition to the university taking a proactive approach to health, the AED devices are also part of an overall education that can expand beyond the university's borders. Familiarity on campus could eventually lead to someone assisting during a crisis off-campus. "If people feel empowered, they can make a big difference," said Schechtman.
In support of this campus initiative, the American Heart Association—once again—reminds everyone of the equal importance of CPR training. Brand new from the American Heart Association are instructional CPR kits that allow you to learn the basics of CPR in your own home. CPR Anytime kits are available online. The American Heart Association offers AED kits as well.
Currently, all of the university's 24 AED devices are located indoors in high-traffic, common areas located near notification systems.
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