State provides life-saving equipment

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 9, 2002

In cardiac arrest, the heart quivers uncontrollably, contractions in the ventricles become uncoordinated and the heart cannot pump blood through the body.

To survive sudden cardiac arrest, an electrical defibrillation shock must be delivered quickly.

I am no expert on medical matters, but I inquired and got this explanation from a physician friend of mine.

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One of the fun, yet important, things I have been doing in recent months is to assist in the delivery of defibrillators to the fire departments in our senate district.

This program has been very ably spearheaded by Denise Smith who is associated with Southeast Alabama Emergency Medical Services.

Over the past six months I have delivering defibrillators to almost every fire department in our area.

I thought I would take my column today and explain this program and remind us all of the importance of it.

Automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) deliver electrical defibrillation and do not require extensive training.

An AED performs two basic and important functions – it identifies the patient’s heat rhythm to determine if a shock should be provided and, if needed, adjusts the level of energy to deliver an appropriate shock when a rescuer pushes a button.

The shock stops the abnormal rhythm and allows a normal pumping action to resume.

Each year sudden cardiac arrest strikes over 250,000 people in the United States alone.

It is estimated that half or more of these victims might be saved with widespread availability and use of AEDs.

There are a number of groups at risk from sudden cardiac death.

These include infants with congenital heart disease, children with heart muscle disorders, children with cardiac rhythm disorders, athletes who receive a traumatic blow to the chest, people injured by electric shock, people with cardiac rhythm problems resulting from anorexia, drug abusers, and drowning victims, among others.

Many states are beginning to require AEDs in public places, such as airports, capitols, government buildings, daycare centers, schools and swimming pools.

These programs also require training.Emergency medical technicians, police officers, firemen and nurses are the most common people trained for their use, but other states have implemented training for the clerks and key staff members among legislators and in government buildings.

In 1998, Congress got into the act by passing the Aviation Medical Assistance Bill.

This bill directs the Federal Aviation Administration to evaluate regulations and decide about the future use of AEDs on passenger airplanes.

This was followed in the year 2000 by a Congressional Act called the Cardiac Arrest Survival Bill.

This included an appropriation of $25 million for local grants to purchase AEDs.

I am pleased to inform you that our state has taken advantage of this new legislation and the grants provided thereunder.

Extensive training has been employed among the personnel who are getting these defibrillators throughout the state of Alabama.

Our State Senate took a personal interest in this subject because one of our number, Senator Tom Butler, was out for a routine walk on a weekend afternoon several years ago in his hometown of Huntsville and went into sudden cardiac arrest.

A nearby local fire department had in their possession a defibrillator and used it on Senator Butler.

He was revived and is presently continuing to serve very effectively in the Alabama Legislature.

Through Senator Butler’s efforts, and those of us in the Legislature who have actively supported getting these defibrillators into the hands of the public, I believe Alabama is being made a safer place.

You may want to inquire of your local fire department if they have a defibrillator, and if they do not, please let me know.

Remember, &uot;I’ll go with you or I’ll go for you&uot; to help you solve any problem related to state government.

You may write me at P O Box 225, Luverne, Alabama 36049 or you may call me at 334-242-7883 at the State Capitol.

Senator Wendell Mitchell can be reached at 334-242-7883, or by writing to P O Box 225, Luverne, Alabama 36049.

(Fire Chief Mike Phillips reports that the Greenville Fire Department purchased a defibrellator several years ago with City Money, but that most of the Butler County volunteer fire departments and those at Georgiana and McKenkie fire departments have defibrellators furnished through the state programs.)