Cincinnati Family Magazine

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May 29, 2024

Heart Savers: The Case for AEDs

Learn how AEDs are saving lives in Middle Tennessee and why there should be one in every public athletic facility.

Full2542.jpgOn May 17, 2006, Harding Academy’s football coach Kelley Swift was attending an ice cream social for the team when he went into a fatal heart rhythm, fell to the ground and essentially left this world. Fast-acting parents performed CPR while Athletic Director Robert Jameison grabbed the school’s Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) and administered a shock that restarted Swift’s heart and brought back his pulse. Amazingly, Swift was then able to get himself on the ambulance gurney.

Having lived to tell about it Swift says, “These devices are wonderful. All schools should have them, and I’m glad the public schools are getting them.”

Twenty-year-old David Nwankwo feels the same. He was 19 and in top physical form last year, practicing with the Vanderbilt Commodore’s basketball team when his heart stopped and his lungs shut down. Vanderbilt Athletic trainer Mike Meyer used CPR and then the university’s AED to revive him.

“This device saved my life,” says Nwankwo. “I feel like this was a miracle for me and I believe AEDs can make miracles for thousands of other people who experience cardiac arrest. AEDs need to be in every gymnasium in Tennessee, where constant activity creates greater risk for sudden cardiac arrest.”

What’s an AED?

AED stands for Automated External Defibrillator. It’s a simple-to-use device that administers an electrical shock to a person’s heart when they’re in cardiac arrest, prompting the heart to begin beating again. If you’ve ever watched a medical program on TV and seen the doctor yell for, “Paddles!!” then make everyone, “Stand Clear!” while he shocks a patient’s heart back into a normal beating rhythm; you’ve got the basic idea.

The amazing thing about AEDs is that they’re the size of a small laptop computer and don’t require a medical background to use. According to the experts at the Nashville Public Access Defibrillator Program or PAD, “The device is designed to “read” what’s happening in someone’s heart and, using voice prompts, help someone press a button to shock a person in cardiac arrest back to life. AEDs won’t shock someone who doesn’t need to be shocked, and so they are designed for non-medical people to use, with minimal, if any, training. There are many different brands of AEDs, but they all work the same basic way.”

You’ll find AEDs hanging on the wall or stored with first aid kits in health clubs, sports arenas, in airports and on airplanes, in fire stations and sometimes in schools. But not enough people are aware of the benefits of AEDs, therefore, not enough of them are readily available in schools and businesses where they could save lives.

Why Do We Need More AEDs?

In the next hour, 25 people will die from sudden cardiac arrest. Although CPR is a lifesaving technique, it will not save a person who suffers from a fatal heart rhythm. The only known remedy for this frequent, often tragic, occurrence is defibrillation. And for every minute that passes without defibrillation, a person’s chance of survival decreases by nearly 10 percent. But according to studies published in USA Today magazine, “the use of an AED within eight minutes can triple survival rates” and other studies have determined that “the rapid use of an AED can increase survival rates by 80 percent.”

That’s why a consortium of health care workers including experts from St. Thomas Health Services, Vanderbilt Medical Center, Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, the American Red Cross, the American Heart Association, Nashville Fire Department, and the Metro Nashville Health Department instituted a Public Access Defibrillation Program or PAD Program here in Nashville. Carole Bartoo, R.N. and senior information officer for Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital and a Nashville PAD Program board member explains, “Our mission is to provide more public access to AEDs and knowledge of how to use them through a system of public education, information and coordination of existing community services. We want to increase the number of people in Middle Tennessee who can survive sudden cardiac arrest through empowerment of the public to act when they see someone collapse.”

Did you know that the survival rate for people who suffer cardiac arrest in Nashville is only about eight percent? But cities with PAD Programs boast survival rates as high 50 percent …

Putting AEDs in Place

The good news is that several area malls have AEDs and all the area YMCAs have them. There are 30 of them at the Nashville airport and the Gaylord Entertainment Center has one on site. But that’s not enough. Bartoo says AEDs should be available wherever people gather in groups. “Churches should have them,” she says. “Every major employer should have units in the building. Schools should have them, not so much for the children, but for the adults who gather for sporting events, graduations and plays.”

Metro Schools Program

Each AED costs more than $1,000, but partnering with the Nashville Fire Department, the folks at Vanderbilt’s PAD program used grants and donations to purchase eight AEDs and present them to Metro schools. This spring they’ll give away five more to the school system. In addition, volunteer trainers have been busily holding seminars to certify more than 100 teachers, staff and coaches to use them.

While legal AED certification requires three to four hours of classroom instruction, the PAD team offers a basic one-and-a-half hour training for just $5 during public CPR/AED training days. Besides training hundreds of people to use AEDs, the group raised enough money to purchase another unit for a Metro school. Bartoo says, “We plan to continue training until all 130 or so Metro schools are CPR/AED ready.”

Are You AED Ready?

Is there an AED in your children’s school? How about in your church? Is one available at your office or local gym? If you’re not sure, it might be a good idea to find out. It may just save a life.

Deborah Bohn is a local mother and writer.

for more info

If you’d like to find out about how to support the Nashville PAD Program, how to obtain an AED for your organization or how to become trained to use an AED, contact The Nashville PAD Program at 615-491-7561or visit their Web site at for more information and more amazing local survivor stories.

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