Defibrillators Easy to Use, Save Lives

Filmed footage of Secco’s collapse and defibrillation only a few minutes later is now part of the casino’s training program. “If it can help save the life of somebody else’s loved one,” Secco says, “I think it’s a great thing.”

The second study, led by Dr. Richard Page of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, found that 40 percent of passengers on American Airlines flights who went into cardiac arrest and received the appropriate defibrillation survived. The airline installed the machines since 1997 and has trained its flight attendants to use them.

“The devices are pretty simple to use,” says Valenzuela, who believes both journal studies demonstrate that non-medical personnel are perfectly competent using the machine. A recent study found that even sixth-grade children were able to follow directions and correctly use the defibrillators

The defibrillators can automatically recognize when the shock should be administered, reducing the chances for incorrect application. Operators follow a series of audible instructions prompted by the machine.

To see whether a volunteer without specific medical training could actually save lives using the devices, the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, one of the institutes in the federal National Institutes of Health, initiated a two-year study in August.

At What Cost? Should government agencies and businesses want to purchase the machine, based on current findings, the $3,000 price tag for a defibrillator raises the larger economic question of where the machines should be placed. Should they be in every sports arena? Every office building? Every home? And who will pay for them?

Although many businesses have been reluctant to offer the machines because of liability fears, Valenzuela says several have found it can be good for publicity — and even the bottom line. “Many people who call for reservations now ask whether the [casino] property has a defibrillator,” he notes.

But although Secco’s life was saved by a defibrillator, he says a home machine is probably too expensive and technical for him to purchase.

“That might be something of the future,” he says. “In 30 years, there might be one in every house.

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