Defibrillators can save lives – no doubt about it. When a person suffers a sudden cardiac arrest, the chances that they will survive and recover diminish dramatically with each minute that passes by. An automated external defibrillator, or AED, can be used to diagnose the patient and restore their heart’s natural rhythm, so they will not suffer brain damage or die while waiting for first responders or en route to the hospital.
If there is no AED around, administering CPR as someone else calls 911 is the best bet. If there is an AED around, but no medical personnel to administer the defibrillation, you may just have to use it yourself until first responders arrive. These machines are designed to be used by the average person without any medical training. There are certain steps that will increase the chances of the patient’s survival. It’s vital that you go about it the right way.
Step One: Make Sure the Patient is Unconscious
Using defibrillators on people who are merely sleeping can be dangerous and painful. Time is of the essence, but it only takes a second to shake and yell at the person who appears to have suffered a sudden cardiac arrest. If a baby or very young child falls to the floor and passes out, though, you will want to try pinching them rather than shaking so as to avoid doing further damage to their sensitive systems.
Step Two: Get the Patient to a Dry Area
If you’re already in a dry place without any water or other liquids nearby that could come in contact with the victim or with the defibrillator, you can ignore this step. If there are any puddles of water nearby, however, you will need to move the patient somewhere dry before administering the electrical therapy of an AED. Since water conducts electricity, a little bit of wetness could be very dangerous.
Step Three: Turn the Power On
The power button should be easy to find, and as soon as you turn it on, the defibrillator will start to tell you what to do. Today’s automated defibrillators are very user-friendly, with audio directions prompting you at each step, as well as a visual screen with instructions.
Step Four: Prep the Patient
First, make sure the patient’s chest is dry, and then expose their chest so the electrode pads of the defibrillator come in direct contact with the skin. One of these pads should be placed just above the nipple on the right center of their chest, with the other just left of the ribcage and under the other nipple. You must have a good connection between the electrodes and the skin, but the machine will let you know if the connection isn’t sufficient. You may also need to trim any excessive chest hair, take off any wired bras or necklaces containing metal, and place the pads to avoid any body piercings and/or implanted devices, such as pacemakers.
Once the patient is prepped, switch on the “analysis” button to diagnose the patient, and administer an electric shock if needed.
Ned is an EMT who is also passionate about educating the public when it comes to what everyday people can do to save lives. He believes AEDs from aedbrands.com are particularly useful and should be installed in all public spaces.