BY CHIP DAVIS
PHOTO BY PETER SPURRIER
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Heart disease, including cardiac arrests, is the leading cause of death in the United States. Many cardiac arrests are caused by an arrythmia, either ventricular fibrillation or ventricular tachycardia. In either case, if left untreated, these abnormal rhythms can cause death within 10 minutes.
While CPR can maintain blood flow to the brain, it typically cannot convert the electrical system of the heart back to a normal rhythm. To do that, either an electric charge to the heart muscle or IV medication (or both) must be administered. The sooner the rhythm is restored, the better the patient’s chance for full neurologic recovery.
Automated external defibrillators (AEDs) are able to sense the heart’s rhythm and determine whether it is “shockable.” They provide verbal and text messages to bystanders with directions for use and instruction in CPR until professional medical help arrives. While first responders have ready access to AEDs and they are common in athletic facilities, they are less likely to be available at smaller clubs, boathouses, or private residences, where cardiac arrests often take place. In remote locations, there may be a delay of more than 10 minutes in EMS response time.
AEDs require little training and are highly reliable. There is very low risk of applying inappropriate shocks. If your boathouse, gym, and residence don’t have one, consider getting one. Professional-quality AEDs can be found for as little as $800, and prices have been dropping. Your organization’s budget for safety or facilities should be able to cover the cost.
Tom Rooks, USRowing’s director of sport safety and operations, says, “We’re a big fan of AEDs.”
AED training is a category of first aid like CPR training, something “all coaches should have,” Rooks said.
“It would be a much safer sport if every boathouse had an AED. They are a critical first-aid piece.”