Lifestyle

Talking defibrillator program expands

Paramedics demonstrate automated defibrillator. When case is opened, it plays recorded instructions to attach electrodes, then automatically assesses whether electric shock is needed. Machines also guide users on chest compression and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation of people whose heart and breathing stop suddenly. - Tom Fletcher/Black Press
Paramedics demonstrate automated defibrillator. When case is opened, it plays recorded instructions to attach electrodes, then automatically assesses whether electric shock is needed. Machines also guide users on chest compression and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation of people whose heart and breathing stop suddenly.
— image credit: Tom Fletcher/Black Press

The B.C. government is adding another $1 million to its program to place automated defibrillators at sports facilities, recreation centres and libraries around the province.

The machines are programmed to allow anyone to use them in when someone suffers a sudden cardiac arrest. When activated, they play recorded instructions to apply the electrodes to an unconscious person, then signal whether an electric shock is indicated to restart the heart.

Health Minister Terry Lake said the automated defibrillators can be used without risk to the patient, and save precious seconds before ambulance paramedics respond to a 9-1-1 call. The machines also instruct bystanders to perform chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

Dr. William Dick, vice president of medical programs B.C. Ambulance Service, said ambulance attendants respond to more than 2,000 cardiac arrest calls a year, and the machines already in place have proven their effectiveness.

"I've seen this myself in my practice as an emergency physician," Dick said. "It's incredible when a save like this occurs, and a person is revived and brought into the emergency department. And then we continue their care and they walk out of the hospital alive and well."

Sudden cardiac arrest can affect anyone, and can be triggered by drowning, stroke, electrocution, suffocation, drug overdose, a car accident or other injury. It differs from a heart attack, which is caused by restricted blood flow to the heart and is usually signalled by chest pains.

The program is co-sponsored by the B.C. and Yukon Heart and Stroke Foundation. CEO Adrienne Bakker said the foundation is working raise matching funds and train staff in community facilities in the use of the defibrillators.

The new target is to place 750 machines in arenas and other facilities around the province. Emergency dispatchers will have maps to show their location, so they can instruct 9-1-1 callers on their location and how to use them.

 

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