Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Defibrillators in Schools – Saving Young Lives

It may have escaped your notice but defibrillators are becoming common place in most public places such as railways stations, shopping centres and sports grounds across the UK. Surprisingly however, there does not appear to be the same impetus to have these vital pieces of lifesaving equipment readily available in our schools – something that the charity SADS is trying to change.

Perhaps there is a misconception that a defibrillator is only needed for the treatment of a heart attack – a problem mainly associated with middle-aged men leading a stressful or sedentary lifestyle. Defibrillation is actually the only treatment for a sudden cardiac arrest (SCA), a condition that can be brought on by a heart attack which is why the two are often confused.

Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA)

SCA is an abrupt loss of pulse and consciousness caused by an unexpected failure in the heart's ability to effectively pump blood to the brain and around the body. It is usually caused by life-threatening arrhythmias, abnormalities in the heart's electrical system.

The sudden cardiac arrest victim first loses his or her pulse, then consciousness, and finally the ability to breathe. All of this happens quickly - within a few seconds.

Without immediate treatment, 90-95 percent of SCA victims will die. The only definitive treatment for SCA is defibrillation - an electric current that "shocks" the heart so that a normal rhythm may resume.
Around 140,000 people die from sudden cardiac arrest each year in the UK. It is the world’s biggest killer and can happen to anyone at anytime.

Causes of SCA

SCA can happen to anyone but someone is at higher risk if:

• They have previously suffered a heart attack or heart disease
• Have a family history of heart problems
• Have unknown heart problems
• Are a victim of asphyxiation (drowning, choking etc)
• Are a victim of electrocution
• Have an impact or trauma to the chest

Chances of Surviving SCA

Survival rates of a SCA victim drop by over 10% for every minute without defibrillation. After 10 minutes, the chances of survival are extremely small. With an AED on site, if defibrillation can take place within 3 minutes, the average chances of survival are 70%, giving the victim a far greater chance of survival than if treatment is delayed for the average eight minutes for an ambulance to arrive.

Sudden Cardiac Arrest in Schools

Despite the fact that as many as 270 children die after suffering sudden cardiac arrest in British schools each year, there is no requirement for defibrillators to be kept on their premises.

The charity SADS estimates that as few as 80 of the 30,000 schools around the country are known to have access to an automated external defibrillator.

In response to this fact SADS is calling for a law to be passed making them mandatory in all schools, and so far more than 60 MPs have signed an Early Day Motion on the topic.

SADS founder Anne Jolly said trials of the defibrillators in schools around the UK had proven to be a success.

“We’re trying to stop young people’s deaths. We know, if a cardiac arrest happens, the faster a defibrillator is used on a person the better the chances are of them surviving,” she said.

“Having the equipment nearby gives patients the best chance. People can be carrying out the treatment before the ambulance arrives. Every second counts when it comes to cardiac arrest.

“We have been putting defibrillators in some schools already. We really felt compelled to do something and it’s even more compelling to get people to understand how helpful they are. These machines do save lives.

“The equipment has already had to be used in the schools we have put them in. There was a 16-year-old girl saved by a defibrillator and a 36-year-old teacher.

“It’s making a huge difference to people’s lives. The more that are put into schools, the more lives will be saved over the years.”

Dr Jan Till, a consultant paediatric electrophysiology cardiologist at the Royal Brompton hospital, added: “A sudden cardiac arrest in a child is devastating and extremely difficult for all concerned. An AED gives that child a lifeline, and parents and teachers know that they have done everything possible to increase the chance of that child surviving.”

Young Lives Saved by a Defibrillator

A sixth form pupil was so distraught about being given her first detention that it triggered an undiagnosed heart condition.

Teachers dialled 999 and an emergency first aider arrived at Westcliff High School for Girls in Essex within three minutes. He was able to restart her heart in the playground with a defibrillator before an ambulance arrived. In this story the girls was extremely lucky as even though there was no defibrillator on site emergency responders were able to get to the scene very quickly, something that is not always possible.

Read full story

A 15 year old schoolboy collapsed and stopped breathing during a work-out on a treadmill at his local leisure centre.

One of the leisure centre’s fitness instructors gave him the kiss of life and massaged his chest before his colleague used a defibrillator to restart his heart.

This was the result of an undiagnosed genetic heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy - the same condition that claimed the life of Manchester City footballer Mark Vivien-Foe during a match in 2003.

Read full story

It is not just undiagnosed heart conditions that can cause sudden cardiac arrest. In Australia a fit and healthy junior aussie rules footballer suffered a heart attack after being knocked unconscious during a match.
An impact or trauma to the chest can also cause SCA.

Read full story

Martek Medical’s School Defibrillator Package

Martek Medical is the official UK distributor of Defibtech’s range of defibrillators – combining innovation with simplicity of use so that anyone, even untrained users, can provide lifesaving defibrillation in an emergency situation.

Martek Medical has created a package especially designed for schools. The package consists of a Lifeline AED and a training course for either up to 6 or up to 12 people.

Defibrillators in Schools - Find out more about our School Defibrillator Package. 

1 comment:

  1. this is such a tragic story though I learnt about the incident from a college essay service the circumstances surrounding his death were unclear thanks for shading some light on the incident.

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