Life or Death; a Critical Link in the Chain of Survival
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Essay by: CCTC-23

“Hey, hey are you okay?.. Someone help! Call 9-1-1 and get the AED!,” a well-known phrase for any health-care provider. If a person requires resuscitation, all health-care professionals are educated on necessary life-saving skills many times throughout their careers. What about everyone else? Do they know what to do if a loved one, friend, neighbor, or stranger collapses due to a cardiac arrest? Do they instinctively know to check for a pulse and start compressions while sending someone to locate the nearest Automated External Defibrillator because it can mean the difference between life and death? In many instances, the answer is no. Or, they are not confident enough to apply what they do know for fear of failure.

Cardiac arrest is a serious public health issue, taking over half a million lives each year (Part 14: Education, 2015). Lives can be saved, and more people can return home to their loved ones with added involvement of bystanders in the use of CPR and an AED on an unresponsive person. An AED is a device that, once applied, analyzes the heart and delivers a shock to a victim experiencing a fatal heart rhythm. The AED will only shock an individual experiencing fatal cardiac dysrhythmias; so its utilization can only improve the outcome for a victim. A delivered shock can potentially correct the heart rhythm and prevent death. Therefore, it is highly encouraged that laypersons utilize this lifesaving device. The American Heart Association (2015) supports allowing untrained bystanders to initiate resuscitation with the use of an AED, as it can be critical for survival and should be encouraged when trained professionals are not immediately available.

AED’s should be easily located in places that harbor a large amount of people or have a higher potential for cardiac arrest, such as airports, gyms, churches, and schools. These are among the many places that should have an easily accessible AED for the public in the use of an emergency. The use of an AED in an unresponsive person can greatly increase their chances of survival, more than just CPR alone. An AED has the capability to be easily used by the untrained person because they include pictures and verbal instructions on what to do.

Rapid defibrillation is included as one of the links in the Chain of Survival according to the American Heart Association. Rapid defibrillation is the third and last step that can be performed by a layperson without any medical background and is imperative to improving the chances of survival in a sudden cardiac arrest, outside of a hospital. Prior to defibrillation, recognition of an unresponsive person suffering from cardiac arrest and the initiation of chest compressions are also key to preserving life.

According to the American Heart Association (2015) even though AED’s can be used proficiently without any prior training, due to the automated vocalization of steps, even brief training will expand the willingness of a bystander to utilize an AED and improve the victim’s outcome. Regrettably, only a marginal number of people suffering from a sudden cardiac arrest receive assistance by a bystander willing to perform CPR and utilize an AED(Part 14: Education, 2015). Implementation of AED programs, providing either instructor-led training or self-training, can provide the resources and confidence essential for bystanders to more frequently involve themselves in sudden cardiac arrest emergencies. A public educated about AED use can provide the critical link in the Chain of Survival that flourishes more life than death.

Part 14: Education: 2015 American Heart Association Guidelines Update for Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and Emergency Cardiovascular Care. (2015). Circulation, 132S561-S573 13p. doi:10.1161/CIR.0000000000000268