A life-saving device can’t keep people from dying if no one knows it’s there.
Automated external defibrillators — or AEDs — are available in schools, churches, fitness centers and other places across the community to rescue people experiencing sudden cardiac arrest.
But no master list exists to let emergency medical responders or well-intentioned citizens know exactly where those AEDs are located, said Dr. Terry A. Gordon. The retired Akron cardiologist has championed the push to get AEDs in schools, police cruisers and other public places nationwide.
Without widespread knowledge about the location of the units, precious minutes could be wasted before a life-saving shock is delivered, Gordon told a group of about 100 community and medical leaders gathered Wednesday at the Austen BioInnovation Institute in Akron headquarters.
“You can’t get any deader than you are when you have a cardiac arrest,” Gordon said. “You can’t hurt the person. You can only help.”
Gordon is pushing to compile an inventory of AEDs in the community while boosting education and awareness about the importance of the devices.
A system then could be created to notify designated representatives for each unit — possibly through a text message — if an ambulance is dispatched for a likely cardiac arrest near that AED, Gordon said.
Some participants suggested the AEDs could be outfitted with a GPS or cell line to keep track of their location. Others said an alarm or message could be sent to units when a potential sudden cardiac arrest has occurred nearby, as well as when batteries need changed or retraining is suggested.
Apps for iPhones and other smart phones that locate AED units also can be explored or developed.
“Sudden cardiac arrest is a major public health issue,” Gordon said. “ … It can happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere.”
In recent years, the medical community has pushed for AEDs to be placed in a variety of public places, including schools.
AEDs are “smart machines” that access a person’s heart rhythm and only administer a shock if needed to restore a normal heartbeat. The cost is about $1,200 to $1,500 per unit.
More than 1,000 Americans die each day from sudden cardiac arrest, Gordon said.
“There are very few things that occur this fast that you can do something about,” said Akron General Health System President Dr. Thomas “Tim” Stover, one of the panelists at the event.
The average eight to 10 minutes it takes for paramedics to respond could be critical for survival, Gordon said. For every minute a life-saving shock from a defibrillator is delayed, the chance of survival drops by 10 percent.
“If you wait for the paramedics, there’s a very low chance you’re going to survive,” he said. “If that’s all you do, the success rate will remain a dismal 3 to 5 percent.”
Ideally, he said, a shock should be administered within two to three minutes.
“With CPR and an early shock, over 50 percent survive,” he said. “Time is of the essence.”
Fairlawn Patrolman Steve Zagar is one of the rare survivors, thanks to an AED that had been in his police cruiser.
He collapsed in December during a welcome-home event for a blinded Afghanistan veteran, surrounded by about 30 fellow law enforcement officers.
“The AED I had lugged up and down steps for 10 years — never used — saved my life,” he said.
But even with AEDs present, people have died because the units weren’t used, Gordon said. He gave the example of national newscaster Tim Russert, who died five years ago at age 58 from sudden cardiac arrest with an unused AED in the studio.
“It’s one thing to have an AED,” Gordon said. “It’s another to be cognizant of it and to use it.”
Other communities nationwide are looking at similar initiatives.
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania launched a project last year that offered cash prize incentives to people who located AEDs throughout Philadelphia.
Through the contest, the researchers were able to map more than 1,400 units in 500 buildings throughout the city, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.
The event on Wednesday was part of the BioInnovation Institute’s ongoing “synergy seminar” series. The seminars bring together participants from the institute’s partner organizations to discuss potential solutions to a problem.
The BioInnovation Institute is an effort by Akron’s three hospital systems, the Northeast Ohio Medical University and the University of Akron to work together to boost medical-related research and economic development and education while improving health care in the region.
Other panelists in the discussion included Summa Health System President and Chief Executive Thomas J. Strauss and Akron Children’s Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. Robert S. McGregor.
Cheryl Powell can be reached at 330-996-3902 or email@example.com. Follow Powell on Twitter at twitter.com/abjcherylpowell.