For this health education information, I am proud to focus on the AEDs that we have at Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd. Both are located just off the elevators at the upper level and at the lower level of the building. These life-saving devices were donated by Margaret Christenson and her late husband Dave Christenson in 2004 as a way for them to honor their 50th wedding anniversary. Dave was an educator, and he and Margaret felt it was important that our faith community be prepared to respond to emergency first aid situations such as sudden cardiac arrest with the proper effective equipment. We have not publicly thanked the Christenson family in recent years for this most generous gift, and I would like to take this opportunity to do so now.
Why did Dave and Margaret want our community to have access to an Automated External Defibrillator? It was a gift given with great conviction that up-to-date life-saving first-aid education is important to people of all ages. The use of such equipment is part of basic CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation) and first-aid training. The last classes for this training were held at Good Shepherd in 2014 when fifteen people were certified in CPR; however, the use of an AED itself does not require certification or any other qualification.
All brands (ours are Medtronic's LifePaks) include voice prompts instructing the respondereach step of the process of reversing a sudden cardiac arrest. These voice instructions are basic, clear, and effective; I like to tell people that you can't do it wrong! The hardest part of responding to a sudden cardiac victim is to get the AED, take it to the side of the victim, open it up, and press the green button for “on. Then follow the instructions given by the device. It's that easy. Be assured that if the victim doesn't need his/her heart to be shocked, the AED will not deliver a jolt. With that reassurance, let's look at more detail of such emergency situations.
Sudden cardiac arrest is not the same as a heart attack. A heart attack occurs when the blood supply of the heart is obstructed. In cardiac arrest, the electrical impulses in the heart are chaotic, rapid, or cease altogether, causing the heart to stop beating. However, be aware that a heart attack can result in a sudden cardiac arrest! Immediate CPR is critical to treat a cardiac arrest. CPR will keep some blood flowing in the heart and to the brain for a short period of time, but the only way to get the electrical impulses restored to the heart is with the electrical current of an Automated External Defibrillator.
For a basic overview: When someone collapses from a sudden cardiac arrest, the responder first determines that the victim is unresponsive and not breathing (classic signs of cardiac arrest); CPR is started immediately; 911 is called; and the responder runs to get the AED, or better yet, sends a bystander to get the AED. An important note: a victim's chance of survival decreases by 10% for each minute that passes without treatment of the cardiac arrest.
Minnesota's Good Samaritan law protects against liability any person who renders emergency care, advice, or assistance at the scene of an emergency. Minnesota first passed such a law in 1998; since then, additional laws have been passed to clarify the immunity from liability of the Good Samaritan, as well as required training in public schools to follow the guidelines of the American Heart Association and/or the American Red Cross and other nationally-recognized guidelines. In 2014 our State legislature passed regulations for public safety requiring that all public access AEDs be registered. This is important in that the AEDs are battery-operated, and the integrity of the equipment is paramount in the effective use. In addition to the batteries, the AED also has electrodes, adhesive pads, that are applied to the victim's chest to deliver the electrical jolt at the appropriate time. Those pads have a special gel coating that allows them to make full contact with the victim's skin. The electrodes as well as the battery of the AED are monitored monthly for their integrity, and must be replaced after each use, and/or after a 3-year period of time. Your parish nurse checks the integrity of the equipment monthly and reports this information to the regulating governmental body for this purpose.
The AEDs at Good Shepherd were purchased through, and continued to be maintained by a vendor, Advanced First-Aid, Inc. With the changes in Federal regulatory guidelines in 2014, we have subscribed to a maintenance contract with Advanced First-Aid. They provide for us electronic record-keeping of maintenance of the AEDs so that we are in compliance with Federal regulations; in addition, they maintain protocols as necessary and they manage the documentation after an event of using the AEDs in an emergency to conform to HIPAA regulations of patient information confidentiality. The contract also includes replacement batteries and electrodes when appropriate. The support by vendor staff has been timely, reasonable, and professional; we appreciate their administrative support as well as service and training opportunities. Please contact the parish nurse if you are interested in CPR and First-Aid training; we will bring instructors in for a group of ten or more, at a nominal cost.
Please make a point of noting the locations of the AEDs near the elevators at Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd. You may want to visit an Internet site for additional information including a YouTube demo of AED use on the sites hosted by Medtronic LifePak, the American Heart Association, and AED Basics.
Our deep gratitude goes to Margaret Christenson for this gift that continues to be very much valued and appreciated. This is truly an example of paying it forward; we will only know of its great value after it has been successfully applied in a life-threatening situation – and it is well-established that the Automatic External Defibrillator does indeed saves lives.