New technology puts lifesaving devices into the hands of employees.

from MERGInet News

   The last thing Jim Young remembers about Jan. 22, 1998 was that he had finished his daily workout at the Michelin company fitness center and was standing before a soda machine thinking about calling his wife.

   Three days later, he woke in a hospital. He was told he had suffered a severe heart attack and was saved by a coworker who used an automated external defibrillator (AED) to shock his heart back to a regular beat. Michelin had brought the AEDs into the plant two weeks earlier and trained its security officers to use the equipment.

   "If it hadn’t been for Michelin security, I’d be dead," said Young, 60, a retired powerhouse operator in Greenville, S.C. "I am so glad they had that AED, and I personally think every company should have one in every workplace. It saves lives."

   Mark Garrett was the security officer on duty the day Young had his heart attack. He said the machine worked beautifully and directed him, step-by-step.

   "When I pulled into the wellness center, someone was at the door shouting to hurry; a man was down," he said. "I ran inside and saw Mr. Young on the floor…l did the basic CPR stuff – `look, listen and feel.’ I didn’t feel a pulse and he was breathing about four times a minute. I opened his shirt, plugged in the AED and it advised to shock. I made sure everyone was clear, pushed the button and administered a shock. His pulse went to 140, but his respiration wasn’t what it should be, so I assisted ventilation with an airbag until the ambulance arrived.

   "When he left here, he was still unresponsive, but his heart was beating and he was stabilized," Garrett said. "Mr. Young was the first person 1 ever applied the AED to. It was a textbook case – there were no problems and it all worked out the way it was supposed to."

Time Factor

   Young was lucky. Garrett was at his side two minutes after he fell to the floor. Time is critical when dealing with sudden cardiac arrest, where the electrical function of the heart is disrupted and it stops pumping blood. While some heart attacks may be handled successfully with a response time of hours, every minute that goes by without treatment of sudden cardiac arrest decreases the chance of survival by about 10 percent. After 12 minutes, chances of survival drops to below 10 percent, according to the American
Heart Association (AHA).

   "In places like New York, where ambulance response time averages 12 minutes, a person would be in deep, deep trouble," said Berna Creel, an AHA spokesperson. "In a lot of situations, it is not possible to truck an ambulance into a space within a lifesaving time frame, and that’s where these AEDs are invaluable."

   According to AHA, approximately 476,000 people die in the United States annually because of coronary artery disease, which causes heart attacks and angina. Heart attacks, or myocardial infarction, are caused by a temporary blockage in the flow of blood to the brain. Sudden cardiac arrest, in which the heart ceases its normal rhythm, accounts for approximately 250,000 deaths each year. "While a heart attack may cause cardiac arrest and sudden cardiac death, the terms aren’t synonymous," AHA explains. AHA says 100,000 lives could be saved annually if police and firefighters were equipped with AEDs.

   Recently, the three leading AED manufacturers – Medtronic Physio-Control, Heartstream and SurVivaLink – have introduced defibrillators that don’t take a medical degree to operate. Basically, all the products work the same: electrodes are applied to the victim’s chest area, the AED reads the heart rhythm and advises whether to shock or not. If shock is advised, the machine adjusts to the proper voltage and, once a button is pushed, administers the shock. Each of the machines is analyzed internally so they are virtually maintenance free.

   While training requirements vary from state to state, AED manufacturers recommend using a program approved by one of the nationally recognized organizations, such as the American Heart Association, the American Red Cross or the National Safety Council. The American Heart Association, for example, has incorporated AED training into its basic four-hour CPR course.

Company Saves

   Last year, Michelin equipped all its North American offices with Heartstream AEDs, said Dr. David Brill, medical director for the company. More than 20 defibrillators costing about $3,000 apiece were purchased by Michelin, he said.

   The company decided to include the defibrillators in its basic first aid toolbox because it was convinced lives would be saved. It was right. Since the company began the program, five lives have been saved. Brill likens the new AEDs to the computer chess program "Big Blue."

   "There are thousands of EKG readings with thousands of analyses by eminent cardiologists in [the AEDs]," he said. "The machines do all the work. We can save lives with these devices, and we believe our employees deserve to have excellent care available."

   More than 23,500 Michelin workers are protected by the devices, he said. "You can literally teach a person how to use this device in a matter of minutes," Brill said. "You apply the pads, turn the machine on, and it will tell you whether or not to deliver a shock. If it says ‘shock’, you make sure nobody’s touching the person and you push a button. That’s all there is to it."

   All Michelin security personnel are trained on the equipment. They take a four-hour AED course and learn basic CPR, Brill said.

Boosting Employee Moral

   Like Michelin, Boyd Gaming Corp. saw a need for AEDs and decided to train its security force to use Medtronic Physio-Control Lifepak 500s at its 11 casinos in Nevada, Illinois, Missouri and Mississippi.

   "It has been a real positive experience for our employees," said Stan Smith, corporate director of risk management for Boyd Gaming. "In the past, when someone had a heart attack in a casino, all [employees] could do was administer CPR until an ambulance arrived. This was especially frustrating in Las Vegas, where traffic is a problem and paramedics often don’t arrive for four or five minutes. Those minutes are critical to survival."

   Smith said nearly 300 people have heart attacks in Las Vegas casinos annually. Since training 650 employees in 12 facilities, they have saved 12 lives – one of which was an employee.

   "I think it’s the right thing for companies to do," he said. "Life is very delicate and very short. To give another person a second chance is quite a gift."

   Don Carlton, assistant security supervisor on the day shift at the Stardust Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, has saved several lives since the defibrillators were brought into his workplace.

   "An older gentleman suffered a heart attack in the lounge," he said, recounting his first save. "I was at his side in about one minute and a bystander had already started CPR. I had the new defibrillator machine and did exactly what I was taught to do: I hooked the two electrodes to his chest and the machine told me to shock. I made sure he was clear and gave him a jolt. By the time he left, he was conversing. He’s been in here a couple of times since. We talk all the time."

   Carlton and his colleagues in security attended a five-hour AED training program, a one-hour oxygen management program and a four-hour CPR training class. Smith said the equipment (33 defibrillators , modems used to check the state of the machinery and training materials) cost about $125,000. Overtime for employees enrolled in the training program cost about $75,000.

   "Was it worth it? Of course. We saved a man this morning in Peoria, Ill.," said Smith. "You can’t put a price on that."

   The company has created a walletsize card for each employee who completes AED training and a pin for them to wear on the job. When a worker saves a life, he receives another pin with a letter of congratulations from the company president.

   "It has really boosted morale," said Smith. "It feels good to help someone else."

Dealing with Trauma   

Shortly after the modem manufacturing company had trained staff on AEDs, a 30-year-old colleague collapsed, unconscious, against the back of his chair.

   "I held him while he experienced small seizures, and I watched him dying in my arms," she said. Then a coworker arrived with a SurVivaLink AED. She attached the electrodes to the man. The AED analyzed the heart rhythm. He was in ventricular fibrillation, a life-threatening electrical malfunction of the heart. The AED voice prompt told her to push a flashing button and administer an electrical shock. She did, began CPR, shocked the man again, and his heart returned to a regular beat.

   "It was a horrible experience, but, thank God, we had a happy outcome," she said. "When he went to the hospital, we sent the information from the defibrillator . The doctor told us if we hadn’t responded so quickly, he wouldn’t have made it."

   Simning said the company chose SurVivaLink because a former Multi-Tech Systems employee went to work for the AED company.

   "We make modems here and were able to trade a few modems for an AED," she said. "We had a training course by the company who provided our CPR classes. Twenty-two people were trained."

   Multi-Tech has 18 people on its safety committee now, each of whom is trained on the system. Simning said the company’s safety program costs about $2,000 annually.

   "A lot of people look at the price and say they don’t want to spend the money, but you save one life with that thing and it pays for itself," she said. "Two weeks after Paul collapsed, his wife had a baby. Had he died, he could have left his wife with three small children. It would have been really tragic."

   Not that saving a life is easy. Simning had trouble dealing with the trauma for weeks afterwards.

   "Fortunately, the person who had done our training was a former firefighter whohad extensive experience in life-and-death situations," she said. "He was able to come down and walk us through our feelings. That really helped a lot."

   While the AED equipment is highly praised, sometimes a person can’t be resuscitated, said Michelin’s Garrett.

   "A 47-year-old male tire trimmer had a heart attack. I was maybe 600 yards away at the time," he said. "I shocked him five times and couldn’t revive him. We worked hard on him, but sometimes you can’t take them from the grim reaper’s hand. You have to know it wasn’t your fault, and sometimes, it’s just someone’s time to go."