Rightfully there have been many questions asked about the need to have defibrillators in small villages and how often they would be used successfully? It has been reported that a nearby village has had a defibrillator for years and it has never been used. We have no evidence to say whether it may have been needed or not, however; there is evidence that there are over 30,000 cardiac arrests a year in the UK in Homes and communities. With these numbers, is it not better to be prepared.
A defibrillator is very easy to use in the event of a cardiac arrest and literally talks you through what you need to do and will not shock the patient unless it is required. Saying this it is very important to mention that without having the knowledge and know how to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) before hand, a defibrillator is likely to remain redundant. It is human nature to bury our heads in the sand at times and think that nothing will happen to us or our loved ones, however having a defibrillator in the villages increases the likelihood of recovery.
80% of cardiac arrests occur at home and around a third of all 999 calls are from lone rescuers, so getting help to them as quickly as possible is important. This is where the Village Emergency Telephone System, or VETS comes into place. More information on VETS is already available on the notice boards in both villages.
What is a cardiac arrest?
Cardiac arrest means that the heart has stopped pumping blood around the body. This can occur for many reasons, but loss of the electrical coordination that controls the normal heartbeat is usually responsible.
What is a heart attack?
There is often confusion over the terms ‘heart attack’ and cardiac arrest. They are not the same. The terms mean different things and need to be explained. A heart attack occurs when an artery supplying the heart with blood becomes blocked. This usually causes chest pain and leads to damage to some of the muscle of the heart. It may lead on to cause cardiac arrest, particularly in the early stages, but this is not inevitable.
The risk of cardiac arrest, however, emphasises the importance of calling for immediate help if anyone is suspected of having a heart attack, and accessing the defibrillator, so that they can receive treatment to reduce the damage to their heart and reduce the risk of a cardiac arrest occurring.
How do you recognise that someone has had a cardiac arrest?
It is devastating to see a loved one collapse unconscious and therefore extremely important that we can recognise whether they are having a cardiac arrest or not.
When the heart stops, blood supply to the brain stops. The victim will collapse and will be unresponsive. Breathing also stops or there may be a few minutes of infrequent or gasping breaths. The key features of a cardiac arrest are therefore someone who is unconscious, unresponsive and NOT BREATHING NORMALLY.
If there is any doubt whether someone is breathing normally or not, assume it is NOT normal: call 999 immediately and start CPR and get the defibrillator.
The letters CPR stand for cardiopulmonary resuscitation and refers to the basic first aid procedures that can be used to keep someone alive until the emergency services can get to the scene. Effective CPR by itself will not restart the heart, but it ‘buys time’ by allowing sufficient blood containing oxygen to reach the brain, heart and other organs.
Effective CPR more than doubles the chance of someone surviving a cardiac arrest.
The Resuscitation Council (UK) have developed a Chain of Survival that describes a sequence of steps that together maximize the chance of someone surviving following a cardiac arrest.
- The first link in the chain is the immediate recognition of cardiac arrest and calling for help.
- The second is the prompt initiation of CPR.
- The third is performing defibrillation as soon as possible.
- The fourth is optimal post resuscitation care.
Like any chain, it is only as strong as its weakest link, so if one stage is weak the chances of successful resuscitation are compromised.
In the UK fewer than 10% of all people whom a resuscitation attempt is made outside of hospital survive. Improving this figure is a major priority for the RC (UK), the Department of health, ambulance services and voluntary aid organisations.
When all the stages in the Chain of Survival take place promptly, the figures are very much better. This is possible where the arrest is recognised immediately, bystanders perform CPR, and an automated defibrillator is used before the ambulance service arrive. Survival rates in excess of 50% have been reported under these circumstances.
“We also encourage people to help themselves. One of the most important things we encourage people to do is to learn basic life support a skill that is going to make a difference in your local vicinity“
Dr Andy Smith – Medical Director SWAS on BBC Spotlight 13/07/17
These points should be considered against the background knowledge that ambulance services cannot guarantee an immediate response to an individual call, even when it is given high priority. Even when they can attend promptly, it is only on exceptional occasions that they will be able to attend and provide defibrillation within the 3-5 minute time window that is the objective to provide the best chance of survival for the victim. This is the reason we need a defibrillator in Ashprington and Tuckenhay.
Some people may be worried regarding the chance that they could do something wrong when attempting to provide CPR or use the defibrillator.
It is very unlikely that someone in the UK who acted in good faith when trying to help another person would be held liable for an adverse outcome. No such action has ever been brought against someone who performed CPR and, in general, the courts in the UK look favourably on those who go to the assistance of others.
The Resuscitation Council (UK) has published detailed guidance on this issue.
Defibrillators seem to be ‘popping up’ all over the country, with no information regarding the importance of CPR. The worry is whether people are getting a false sense of security thinking that this is the be all and end all of resuscitation.
The Ashprington and Tuckenhay defibrillator appeal support group are eager that as many people as possible have the knowledge and the ability to perform CPR effectively when required and are able to access the defibrillator as needed. Information will be arranged with advice provided by the British Heart Foundation and will include practical sessions using the resuscitation manikins.
The Type of Defibrillator at the Maltsters PH Tuckenhay