Event planned to replace defibrillator batteries, patchesA recent check of AED units in the Aberdeen area found three dead units.
By: Ross Dolan, The Daily Republic
The reasoning behind advice to regularly change smoke detector batteries applies equally to automated external defibrillators — both devices must be ready to go when they’re needed.
The AED that Mitchell Recreation Center employees used to save Wayne Klinger’s life March 29 was ready, and it delivered an electrical shock that restored Klinger’s pulse.
But an AED is a one-shot deal.
Once an AED is used, the battery that powers the unit is depleted and the adhesive patches that connect it to a patient’s chest also must be discarded.
“It did exactly what it was supposed to do, and the system worked,” said Mitchell firefighter paramedic Joe Dolezal, whose job it is to maintain Mitchell’s AEDs. “We replaced the battery and patches within 48 hours, and it’s now ready for its next use.”
While Mitchell’s units are fully functional, a recent check of some AEDs throughout the state has found dead batteries and unusable patches, said Avera Heart Hospital President and CEO Jon Soderholm.
Heart Hospital representatives are touring the state as part of an AED Check-up Clinic.
The Mitchell stop will be at the Mitchell Public Safety Building from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 23 and will offer replacement batteries and patches for Medtronic Lifepak Express and CR Plus AED units for $60. Private owners must pay applicable sales taxes.
Soderholm said the Heart Hospital in 2003 began helping public agencies in the Sioux Falls area procure AEDs, and the program grew.
Over the years, about 1,100 AEDs have been placed statewide, many with a combination of public and private grant funds, but all through the Heart Hospital, which gets a low price and passes on the savings. The units cost around $1,000 in 2003 and now run about $1,200. Some AEDs will be available for sale at the check-up clinic.
“We’re averaging about one save a month now,” Soderholm said, speaking of lives saved by the placed AED units, “but some AEDs which have not been used have been out there nearly 10 years now, and they need maintenance.”
A recent check of AED units in the Aberdeen area found three dead units. Soderholm said he hates to think what might have happened had the AEDs been needed in a health emergency.
“That would have been a terrible disaster,” he said. “It would have been much like pulling a fire extinguisher off the wall and finding it dead.”
Most people understand that batteries can drain and lose their charge over time, Soderholm said, but AED adhesive patches also break down.
“The adhesive deteriorates and the patches don’t stick when they’re needed,” he said.
That means the wires that deliver a life-saving jolt to a patient’s chest won’t have a good connection.
“You’ve got to have good contact, or they won’t work,” he said
AED accessibility is another problem. Soderholm said anyone who gets an AED should display it prominently.
“Early in the program, we found that some people would buy the unit and lock it up because they were afraid it would be stolen, but that’s no good. That would be like locking up a fire extinguisher.”
Units do get stolen, Soderholm said, and some end up being sold online.
“But that’s a risk we have to take,” he said. “The reality of the world is that AED units have to be out and visible so that people who need them can get to them.”
While most public buildings in Mitchell have personnel on staff trained in the use of available AEDs, Soderholm said no one should be afraid to use the units.
“People are afraid they will deliver a shock to someone who doesn’t need it, but that’s not the case. These units are safe to use and will deliver a shock only if one is needed.”
If no trained personnel are available to use the AED, an untrained person may be a victim’s only chance at life.
Firefighter/paramedic Dolezal said AEDs were developed to make it simple for people without training to give help when needed. Testing at major airports showed that untrained people were able to save heart attack victims.
The Medtronic AED has an artificial voice that gives loud, clear directions that are easy to follow, he said.
Training is preferred, however, so responders can proceed swiftly and efficiently when help is needed.
AED classes are available to anyone at the Mitchell Public Safety Building on the last Thursday of every month for a fee of $25. For more information, call the fire station at 995-9445.