Defibrillators save local lives

Cameron Rothnie, Operations Community Engagement Liaison Coordinator Gippsland (acting) and Kevin Mitchell, owner/manager of Yallourn North Foodworks. Photo: Contributed

Stefan Bradley

Every day, around 18 Victorians suffer a cardiac arrest.

Cardiac arrest can happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere, at any age, health or fitness level, often without symptoms. 76 per cent of cardiac arrests occur in the home.

Only one in 10 survive.

That’s where you come in.

When bystanders act to call Triple Zero (000), begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and shock using an Automated External Defibrillator (AED), the chances of survival increase by 72 per cent.

The terms “cardiac arrest” and “heart attack” are often used interchangeably, but there are major differences between the two.

A heart attack occurs when the heart is still beating, but blood flow decreases due to a partially blocked or clogged artery. The person may or may not lose consciousness.

A cardiac arrest occurs when a person’s heart suddenly stops beating.

A person in cardiac arrest will collapse and stop breathing normally and should receive CPR immediately.

Cardiac arrest can occur without warning. It is triggered by an electrical malfunction in the heart that causes an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia).

This malfunction can stop the heart from pumping blood around the body.

Acting Paramedic Community Support Coordinator for Wellington Pauline Murcott said that every minute and every second counts, when it comes to cardiac arrest.

“If you witness someone who isn’t breathing, has no pulse and is not responding, you need to give them chest compressions or shock using an AED,” Ms Murcott said.

An AED is a light-weight, battery operated, portable device that you may have already seen in places you visit every day, including shopping centres, sporting clubs, gyms, or even your workplace. They are available to purchase from various providers.

Ms Murcott and Ambulance Victoria are calling on all Victorians to register their AED if they have one, and to download the GoodSAM app to their smartphone.

GoodSAM is a life-saving smartphone app that connects Victorians in cardiac arrest with responders and defibrillators in the critical minutes before paramedics arrive, and so far 15,000 Victorians have signed up to be GoodSAM Responders, but more responders are needed.

Since the app launched in 2018, more than 50 lives have been saved thanks to GoodSAM Responders.

Ms Murcott said there were approximately 100 public asset AEDs registered in the Wellington Shire.

“They are available for public access, so if an alert is activated, they will be notified of the closest AED through the app, so the bystander can use it,” Ms Murcott said.

“Public access means they’re mounted for public use and we believe that there’s a lot more that aren’t registered with Ambulance Victoria.”

Ms Murcott said that because many areas in the Wellington Shire are remote, public access to AEDs is imperative.

“There is a geographic barrier to AED access caused by long distances, and we don’t always have 24-hour stations available,” she said.

“We got community officers in Loch Sport, but not 24-hour paramedics, for example. We don’t always have paramedics available because they’re responding in another area. That’s why GoodSAM responders are so essential, as they can perform CPR or use the closest AED if they have their alerts activated.”

The town of Yallourn North recently had an AED installed on the outside of Yallourn North Foodworks, which is registered to Ambulance Victoria and is accessible to anyone 24 hours a day.

Ambulance Victoria Community Engagement Liaison Coordinator Cameron Rothnie said anyone can use an AED, regardless of whether they have received training to do so.

“If someone is in cardiac arrest and an AED is available, simply open it and follow the verbal instructions,” Mr Rothnie said.

“They are safe and easy to use and will not deliver a shock unless it is necessary.”

Mr Rothnie also encouraged locals to register as GoodSAM Responders.

“You will only receive an alert if you are nearby to the person in cardiac arrest. You will be given the address of the patient, along with the location of the closest defibrillator (if one is available), so you can begin lifesaving care while an ambulance is on its way,” Mr Rothnie said.

“Anyone can save a life by downloading the GoodSAM App and knowing how to perform chest compressions or CPR. You don’t have to have experience or a medical background, you just have to be willing and able to do hands-on CPR, be over 18 years of age and have access to a smartphone,” he said.

To become a GoodSAM, visit heartrestarter.com.au and be sure to download the GoodSAM Responder app to your smart device.

CPR. Photo: contributed

An Automated External Defibrillator (AED). Photo: contributed