"Big zap, small package"
June 25, 2008 · Updated 11:52 AM
"CPR does not save lives without electricity.This is a fact that does not always surface in First Aid training courses. Without a powerful electric shock from an electric defibrillator, a heart attack victim stands little chance of recovering his or her heart rhythm, even when a person trained in cardiopulminary resuscitation provides that rhythm manually.Typically, a South Whidbey heart attack victim has to wait for emergency medical professionals to show up to get a shock from a defibrillator. But Fire Protection District 3 is hoping new advances in miniaturization technology can change this situation. This year, FD3 Special Services Captain Darrin Reid will be canvassing local businesses and public agencies, hoping to convince them to invest in a new generation of small, portable, user friendly defibrillators.Known on the marked as Auto External Defibrillators, or AEDs, the $2,800 devices are about one-fourth the cost and one-half the size of larger, older models. It is affordable and easy to use, Reid said, and he wants to see the devices in as many public places as possible to save as many lives as possible.It doesn't guarantee a successful outcome, but it improves the chances a lot, Reid said. Steve Shapiro, co-owner of Freeland's Island Athletic Club, is the first local business owner to invest in one of the little defibrillators. As he is in the business of helping people exert themselves in the interests of fitness, Shapiro said it is only prudent to have a defibrillator on hand. A licensed medical doctor, Shapiro said he has long known that CPR is rarely enough to bring a heart attack victim back from the brink of death.CPR doesn't save anybody. You just buy them time until the electricity gets there, he said. Shapiro has the first-hand knowledge to say this. Three weeks after his club opened in 1996, a racquetball player collapsed on the court after suffering a heart attack. Shapiro was there that day, eating lunch just feet away from the court entrance. Seeing that the man in the court was still down, he and the racquetball player's game partner began CPR. They kept his lungs full and his blood circulating until emergency medical personnel arrived with a defibrillator to shock the man's heart back into rhythm.Without the defibrillator, Shapiro said, that man would not be alive today.The most valuable feature in the new AEDs is the audio instruction function built into them. Although training with the devices helps when an emergency arises, people without training can easily use an AED by following along with computer voice instructions. AEDs are also nearly maintenance free. Their lithium batteries last five years without a recharge.Reid suggests that those who wish to learn more about AEDs call FD3 at 321-1533. The district can supply information on leading AED makers, and can provide training on the devices."