A defibrillator is a machine used to shock the victim's heart and restore the heart's normal rhythmic patterns. When this machine is used, it in effect kicks the heart into action again, causing it to resume pumping blood throughout the body.
According to the American Heart Association, 700 Americans die every day as the result of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). Some people confuse SCA with a heart attack, but they are by no means the same. With a heart attack, caused by blockage of the arteries, the victim feels severe chest pains but almost always remains conscious; however, SCA victims will always lose consciousness. Researchers state that SCA is the result of a "ventricular fibrillation," a quivering of the heart which prevents the heart muscle from pumping blood to the body. To overcome this condition, the victim will need various forms of help in order to survive, the most important of which may well be the assistance of a defibrillator. Each minute that passes without defibrillation decreases the victim's survival chances by 10%.
Those used in hospitals are expensive machines that send voltage through two paddles that a medical professional places on a heart attack victim's chest area. Automated External Defibrillator's (AEDs) have become the norm in schools, gymnasiums, city offices, and workout facilities. An AED is a compact device contained in a box roughly the size of a child's lunchbox.
These valuable tools are automated and offer voice assistance to aid a volunteer in successfully using them. Two pads connected to the wires are the primary tools contained in the AED. One of these pads will be placed over the victim's heart area and the other nearby on the chest. After everyone is clear of the victim and the pads and wiring are set properly, the AED will charge itself and then send voltage to the victim's heart. The machine will then check the heart rhythms to determine if a second shock should be sent. Though these machines walk the user through the steps, training in AED administration is still recommended.
The American Heart Association states that 4 steps are necessary to save someone who has experienced SCA:
- Contact 911 to get early access to medical care.
- Early cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to get oxygen moving to the victim's heart and brain.
- Early defibrillation to bring back the victim's normal heart rhythms.
- Early advanced care by trained medical responders.