Robert Barron column: AEDs should be everywhere

The devices have proven to be one of the most important tools in saving heart attack victims

Health issues used to hold just an academic and professional interest for me.

As a reporter, I have been following health and wellness issues for much of my career and have presented the information as best I could for the benefit of the readers.

But age, and the inevitable increase in visits to the doctor to deal with a whole range of personal health issues, has made me realize that I’m as vulnerable as everyone else when it comes to the ravages of time.

That’s why I took the story of Earl Morris, who had a cardiac arrest while taking a class in Duncan last month, to heart; quite literally in fact.

Fortunately for him, it was a first-aid class at the Cowichan Valley Training Centre so professional first-aid people and their life-saving equipment were quickly at hand.

Morris told me that all he remembers about the incident is blacking out and waking up in Cowichan District Hospital some time later.

Class instructor Paul McCoy, who is also a trained first responder with the St. John Ambulance Brigade, jumped into action and, with the help of fellow instructor Heather Haskett and some students, worked as a team giving CPR, providing oxygen and connecting the automated external defibrillator that was in the facility to Morris.

An AED is a small, lightweight, and portable electronic device that delivers an electric shock through the chest wall of a person whose heart has stopped beating.

The devices have proven to be one of the most important tools in saving the life of someone suffering sudden cardiac arrest.

Morris was shocked three times with the AED before ambulance crews arrived and had to be shocked six more times to keep him alive before even reaching the hospital.

It was a wake-up call for Morris, who never had a heart issue before that he was aware of, and he was fitted with a pacemaker at the hospital that is intended to shock his heart into pumping if it were to stop again.

We are an increasingly old population here on the Island, largely because more and more seniors come here to retire, so it’s important that we keep up with the latest technologies like the AED, and ensure they are as available as possible.

Ann Saele, a spokeswoman for the CVTC, said the incident shows the importance of CPR and first-aid training and having an AED on site, especially in the workplace.

She said many sports facilities, doctors’ offices and increasingly more private companies are also buying AEDs to have in case of emergencies.

Saele said the price of AEDs has dropped considerably in recent years, from $5,000 to about $1,600 today, so they are more accessible than ever before.

Morris told me he works for the Victoria-based AFD Petroleum and management there had already decided to place an AED machine in all of its eight branches even before his incident.

It’s a good idea and talking to Morris, a well known sportsman in the Valley who was so grateful for everyone involved in saving his life, made it clear to me just how important he thinks it is to have AEDs close by.

Saele said they are easy to learn to use and is part of the CVTC’s first-aid training.

It’s something for all local businesses and organizations to consider, especially when old guys like me come for a visit.

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