by Terri Tabor, Daily Herald Staff Writer
From the instant someone’s heart stops, it normally takes about five minutes for paramedics to arrive.
With each minute that goes by, your chance of survival drops by 10 percent.
The math is scary.
"You are talking 50 percent less survival rate right there," said Mary Schutte, an instructor in life-saving techniques with the Fox Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross.
But there is a way to improve those chances. All it takes is the push of a button.
And it’s so easy that lifeguards in Batavia and St. Charles can do it.
Technology has made it so defibrillators, the two-handed paddle shocking devices that are a staple of any "ER" episode, are now simple enough for just about anyone to use.
The purse-sized machine, called an Automated External Defibrillator, actually analyzes a person’s condition and with voice prompts advises whether or not the heart needs to be shocked. If a shock is needed, it is as simple as pressing a button.
In any case, the defibrillator will not deliver a shock if the heart doesn’t need it.
"It is kind of like foolproof," Schutte said.
The simplicity of these machines combined with a more universal knowledge of lifesaving has created a demand for them outside hospitals and ambulances.
Now they are found in police squad cars, fire trucks, airports, large corporate centers and even two park districts here in the Tri- Cities.
Both Batavia and St. Charles park districts bought the $3,000 devices and trained lifeguards to operate them. Neither has had an opportunity to use them, though.
The machines won’t replace CPR but definitely take lifesaving a step further when someone goes into cardiac arrest.
CPR manually circulates oxygen through the blood until paramedics can arrive. Still, for every minute the heart does not beat normally, the chances for survival decrease.
The defibrillators, on the other hand, can jumpstart the heart.
"It is not to say CPR is useless," Schutte said. "It is obviously greatly better to restart the heart if you can do it."
Officials at the Batavia and St. Charles park districts said buying a defibrillator was a logical safety precaution.
"There has been concern that people need care quicker than the paramedics could arrive," said Nancy Ryan, recreation superintendent in St. Charles.
"It could be the difference between life and death," said Tom Tosaw, manager at Batavia’s Harold Hall Quarry Beach.
The medical community has pushed to make this simple machine more available to the public and ultimately save more lives.
The new legislation, Senate Bill 458, would create the Automated External Defibrillator Act in Illinois. The bill would require the state Department of Public Health to develop a program to educate more people about automated defibrillators.
Essentially, the bill would define how important the systems are in our society, said Leslee Stein-Spencer, chief of the division of emergency medical services and highway safety for the state department of health.
Stein-Spencer said she expects Gov. Ryan will sign the bill into law sometime this summer.
But even now without the legislation, defibrillators are becoming more commonplace at stadiums and even the workplace.
Schutte said an automated defibrillator has saved at least a couple of lives at Aurora’s Hollywood Casino. Casino officials could not be reached for comment.
Fermilab has one in its main office center for medical personnel to use in case of emergency, as does Lucent Technologies in Naperville.
But in Illinois, even lay people can use the defibrillators if they are certified in adult CPR and receive training from the American Red Cross, American Heart Association or other certified paramedics or medical experts.