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Pam's Story - Why Early Defibrillation is Important

I ask myself “why” do I do what I do. Why have I continued this path when my life has routinely been to always try something new? I think it is the vision that no one should ever die of a community cardiac arrest.

In my years in the hospital and emergency department (ER)(1982-2006), I never had the opportunity to meet a community cardiac arrest victim who was brought in by paramedics, that survived to go on the lead a normal life. Over twenty years, nothing. It was a routine, several times a week, that victims of sudden cardiac arrest would be brought into the ER on a gurney with the youngest firefighter straddling the gurney pumping the chest to no real rhythm or metronome, just pumping.

The ER doctor would come to the side of the gurney and ask the same questions,

Doctor: “How long has this victim been down?”

Medic in charge would always say about the same thing, “45 minutes, we think”

Doctor: When was the last round of epi?”

Medic: “5 minutes”

Doctor: “Check for a pulse, what’s the rhythm?”

Medic: “Stop CPR, monitor shows asystole”

Doctor: “Ok let’s call the code, time of death, 1:15pm”

We knew that 45+minutes of CPR would never bring back a viable patient. Not in the 80-90s, never. And if the victim did survive, they would never be normal. They would be kept alive on machines for the rest of their life.

That was the normal scenario so frequently. Back in that era never did we ask if bystander CPR was started, or if the victim had a history, or who he was, it was so matter of fact. This victim lost his/her pulse in the community, so he was not going to survive. The joke, I know a bit sick, but the joke between the nurses and medics was that for each of them, if we were ever to get a tattoo it would be a big “DNR” across our chests, meaning Do Not Resuscitate, or in order words, please never do CPR on me. We knew it didn’t work, at least not the way we were being taught back in the 80-90’s.

Starting this business, AED Institute, in 2004, I was not sure what I had in mind but I had heard stories that cardiac arrest victims were being saved in casinos and on airplanes due to automated external defibrillators, also called AEDs. My friend Sharon and I had attended a local CME (Continuing Medical Education) conference in Ventura where this huge man spoke to the group of nurses and medics about how he had been the victim of a cardiac arrest in the community and that he had received over 20 shocks from an AED. The entire time he is telling the story, he is crying and having a hard time getting his words out, not because he can’t, but because it was so emotional for him. He had told the same story dozens of times, but each time he knew this was an amazing story, no one survived a community cardiac arrest. Everyone in the room was crying while listening to this gentle giant tell his story. It was truly amazing, and he kept saying that AEDs need to be hung from every tree so that every cardiac arrest victim would have the chance at a second life. I think this is one of the pivotal events that started my new chapter.

In my next segment we will learn about the science behind defibrillation, when we started preforming CPR, and how the techniques and methods have changed. Stay tuned.

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