I think I was the oldest person in the room last Tuesday when about a dozen of my Bangor Daily News colleagues gathered to get certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and the use of automatic external defibrillators, or CPR/AED. It pleased me to see how many of my younger coworkers take seriously the responsibility of responding to an emergency in the newsroom and were willing to devote a half-day of their valuable time to learn how. I also appreciate that the BDN values our safety enough to bring a Red Cross trainer on site and pay us to earn our certification.
I covered health and healthcare for the BDN from 2002 to 2011. It was in 2008 that I first wrote about automatic external defibrillators, or AEDs. These portable, battery-operated devices, smaller than a child’s school lunchbox, pack enough of a voltage punch to shock an arrested heart back to life, right at the scene of the incident. And they are so simple and self-explanatory to use that even an untrained bystander can effectively deliver that lifesaving charge, often long before professional emergency responders can arrive on the scene.
Although AEDs have been around since the 1970s, the technology was still unfamiliar to the general public in 2008 when I wrote that first story, and I suspect it still is now. Federal legislation co-sponsored by U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine in 2000 provided funding to push AEDs out into schools, town offices, community centers and other high-traffic public venues, particularly in rural areas. Now, 16 years later, the devices hang on the wall in many public buildings and a growing number of private workplaces, group homes, healthcare facilities and other locations, especially where large numbers of people live, work or gather. You may have one near you and not even know it’s there, much less how to use it.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the survival rate for cardiac arrest treated with CPR alone is less than 10 percent; the odds of survival decline with every minute that passes. By contrast, individuals treated with AED within a few minutes of arrest have a survival rate of more than 30 percent. Nonprofessionals, with or without training, who administer CPR or use an AED to try to save the life of someone in cardiac arrest are covered by state-level “good samaritan laws” that protect them from legal action if they are unsuccessful.
CPR/AED training is easy to come by, not expensive and not especially challenging to complete. You can sign up for a class through the American Red Cross or the American Heart Association. Your local hospital may offer classes. Your workplace may be willing to bring a trainer in.
And if there isn’t an AED nearby, you might want to look into getting one. I lobbied hard for the BDN to purchase one back in 2009, right after I learned about them. It took a while, but I’m glad to report we have one now, hanging beside the watercooler, not far from the lobby. It cost about $1,500 — not insignificant in these budget-conscious days, but a reassuring presence nonetheless, especially with so many of my younger coworkers newly certified and emboldened to use it.