You’ve seen it in the movies – the star of the show is lying motionless in a hospital bed and then the dreaded, high pitched beep comes blaring through the cinema speakers. The bedside monitor shows a flat-line and concerned loved ones scream and weep. Doctors and nurses come running in wielding a defibrillator, which looks more like a couple of household clothes irons! They whack them on the star’s bare chest, hit a few buttons on a machine, and a zap of electricity jolts the star off the bed and back to life.
Sure, the Hollywood theatrics skip a few of the facts and the reality of such a situation is a bit different, but the technology and real-life operation of a defibrillator are pretty similar. But luckily, these devices are also easy to use, publicly available, reasonably priced, and should be near the top of your list of ‘must-haves’ for your vehicle or boat.
What’s a defibrillator?
A defibrillator or Automated External Defibrillator (AED) is a piece of highly sensitive medical equipment which has the ability to analyse a human’s heart’s electrical activity. Based on the information gathered through this analysis, the machine detects if a shock is required to help ‘reset’ the heart’s rhythm, and if so, will deliver this shock to the patient, using the charge stored in the in-built battery.
When does a defibrillator need to be used?
If a patient is unconscious and not breathing, CPR should commence immediately and a defibrillator should be applied. The beauty of these devices is their ability to simplify an extremely stressful situation. Modern defibrillators have limited buttons to avoid confusion and built-in speakers to deliver audio prompts to the responding first aiders. When the instructions are followed and pads applied to a patient’s bare chest, the defibrillator will analyse the heart rhythm and determine if a shock is necessary. If a shock is required, audio prompts will tell the responders what to do. Similarly, if a shock is not required, the device will also inform responders of this. As a result, there is no chance of harming a patient with a defibrillator when used according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Why do you need a defibrillator?
Defibrillation is an essential part of first-aid treatment for a person suffering a cardiac arrest. It’s easy to think ‘it won’t happen to me!’ According to the 2018 Review of the model WHS laws by Safe Work Australia, sadly, for 30,000 Australians every year it does, and it’s fatal for them. In Australia, the survival rate of sudden cardiac arrest is estimated to be around 12%. This worrying figure is due to many reasons, but predominantly because of the requirement for time-critical treatment. Leading training authority, austrailanfirstaid.com.au, estimates that for every minute defibrillation is delayed, a patient’s chance of survival decreases by 10%. Couple that with the average Australian ambulance response time in metropolitan areas of 16 minutes, and it starts to paint a worrying picture. Now consider, the unthinkable occurring when you’re in some of the many remote areas we love to visit in our RV or boat! That ‘worrying’ picture becomes a nightmare.
A defibrillator will set you back around $2,000-$3,000 which, at first glance, may seem like a lot. But, when you consider that it’s a genuinely lifesaving device, it really is a small price to pay.