Myth #9: “AEDs are only used on people who have heart attacks, therefore they are not necessary to have in schools.”
AEDs are designed for use on victims who are in cardiac arrest. Cardiac arrest is defined as failure of the pumping action of the heart, resulting in loss of consciousness and absence of pulse and breathing. Therefore, someone who is having a heart attack but is still conscious will not require an AED. (If the suspected heart attack victim becomes unresponsive and they are not breathing normally, yes, they will require an AED because their heart is failing to pump effectively.)
Contrary to popular belief, children fall victim to cardiac arrest for a number of reasons including trauma, hypothermia, electrolyte imbalances (due to a diet or medication issue), drugs, electrocution and head injuries, etc. There are a number of school boards in North America who are beginning to understand the benefits of having AEDs in each of their schools. It’s exciting to see progress happening!
Myth #10: “If the victim starts breathing normally again, I can remove the AED.”
If the victim begins to breath again on their own, whether it is after they have been shocked or not, do not remove the AED. If the victim is breathing and has a normal heart rhythm again, perfect! The AED can only help from this point onwards because it will continue to reassess the victim’s heart rhythm and audibly tell you that everything is okay. If the victim’s condition changes, the AED will continue to monitor and tell you to shock if necessary. DO NOT take it off – let the paramedics remove it once they arrive.
Myth #11: “Once the paramedics arrive, I can start packing up the AED and return it to its place of storage.”
Hold your horses. Before you put the AED away, the paramedics might want to have a look at the unit and they may take away with them a memory stick device that stored all of the information about the situation. Information pertaining to how many “shocks” versus “no shocks” were administered over what period of time will be captured within the device. This arms the medical pros with additional information about the situation to better help with treatment. Knowledge really is power.
Myth #12: “If the AED says ‘shock not advised’, that means the victim is okay and we should just leave him be.”
Incorrect. Like I mentioned before, a defibrillator cannot start a heart, it can simply try to reset a heart that is beating irregularly (which is therefore not effectively pumping nutrient and oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body). So if a victim’s heart is not beating whatsoever (flat line) there will be “no shock advised” because the machine is unable to start a heart that is not moving at all. The AED will however tell you to “continue CPR”, which is exactly what you need to do to try and restore some type of shockable rhythm, as well as manually pump blood around the body to keep vital organs healthy. Therefore, stay with the victim until the paramedics arrive and follow the directions given by the AED.
Now that we have busted all of these myths, the moral of the story is: if you have an AED available in an emergency situation, have it ready to go in case the victim becomes unresponsive and is not breathing normally. Don’t second guess yourself or psyche yourself out. Remember that AEDs are designed to be used by someone with no training, and the device will only shock if it detects a “shockable rhythm” (ie: you don’t have to worry about it wrongfully shocking a person with a normal heartbeat and killing them). YOU ultimately press the button if a shock is advised. YOU are in control of the situation and AEDs are designed to enable greater control of the situation. AEDs truly do save lives.
Be calm, be confident & think common sense!