A life-saving initiative
According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, one cardiac arrest, or heart attack, occurs every twelve minutes in Canada. Without immediate attention, most of those heart attacks will result in death.
Those are some of the startling facts that motivated Ambulance Stanstead, back in July of 2010, to launch its Public Access Defibrillator Program, a model public safety program that is unique in the region. Since that time, twelve Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs), small, portable devices that can give a shock to the heart, have been placed in public locations in Stanstead and neighbouring municipalities, and dozens of citizens have been trained in their use.
“Once an organiza
tion, like the Caisse
de Stanstead or the Pharmaprix Pharmacy, buys a defibrillator, then we provide, for free, the training to their employees, we provide the batteries, the metallic box that protects the AED, and the pads that have a one-time use. We ensure the upkeep of the machines so that when people buy the machine, there is no further cost to them,” explained Justin Dewey, a paramedic with Ambulance Stanstead. The cost of an AED is $1,845, while the added equipment, the battery, metallic box and pads total roughly $500; a substantial investment for Ambulance Stanstead.
The AEDs, as mentioned earlier, will give a shock to a patient whose heart is ‘fibrillating’, a condition that is life-threatening and most often present during a heart attack. The shock usually returns the heart to a more normal rhythm. If the machine doesn’t detect a ‘shockable rhythm’, then it doesn’t give the shock but will, instead, instruct the user to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Although these machines are incredibly simple to use (a voice tells you exactly what to do) and have been used successfully to save lives by people without any training whatsoever, according to Mr. Dewey, “it’s better to have the training.”
The use of an AED on a patient in the first few minutes following cardiac arrest can boost the likelihood of survival by 75% or more. “For every minute that passes without defibrillation, following a cardiac arrest, the chance of survival decreases by ten per cent.”
Mr. Dewey further explained what someone in cardiac arrest looks like: “They could be unconscious, not breathing, with signs of poor circulation like grayish skin and a blue-purplish colour around the mouth. Or just breathing one or two gasps a minute. Then it’s time to start CPR. What’s good about this machine is that it won’t give a shock if the patient’s heart doesn’t need it. They’re intelligent machines that make all the tough decisions for you. You can’t hurt anyone by using the machine – you can only hurt someone if you don’t.”
Ambulance Stanstead has trained groups of employees at public organizations where AEDs are located and several groups of individuals at the CAB RH Rediker. “The regular training sessions last four hours and we have also done 30-minute training sessions at public events like BorderFest and Townshippers’ Day. Quebec is the only province in Canada that doesn’t require high school students to have CPR training, but the more people who know, the better. What really makes the difference when someone has a heart attack is what the people around them can do. We know that now,” said the paramedic.
People who would like to take a CPR course with Ambulance Stanstead, which besides learning CPR includes learning how to use an AED and how to stop someone from choking, can leave their name with Lynn Wood at the CAB RH Rediker; when enough names are on the list Ambulance Stanstead will do the course. “So far we’ve trained mostly seniors at the CAB. But there is really a need for all generations to be trained. Sudden cardiac arrest is actually more common in the 40 to 65 year age group but these people don’t see themselves as at risk so they’re not prepared.”
Anyone who has seen how enthusiastic Mr. Dewey is when doing community outreach for Ambulance Stanstead might be surprised to learn how Justin ended up choosing a career as a paramedic. “After I graduated from high school I went to Cegep and was in different programs, but I had no idea what I wanted to do. I was working at the gas station when a guy who had been with Ambulance Stanstead for a long time asked me if I’d thought of being a paramedic and told me about the job. I had always been interested in the medical field so I thought, why not?” commented Justin who received his paramedic training at Ahuntsic Cegep, in Montreal.
An earlier incident in Justin’s life may also have played a role in his career choice. “When I was in elementary school a friend of mine started choking on a marble. Then the teacher did the Heimlich maneuver on him and saved his life. It was really cool!”
The Automatic External Defibrillators (AEDs) in the Stanstead region, which are accessible to the public, are in the following locations: available 24 hours a day at the Caisse Desjardins de Stanstead on Fairfax and in the Beebe sector, and at the Ogden Town Hall from June to September; available during opening hours at the Pat Burns Arena, Pharmaprix Pharmacy, Stanstead Town Hall, Manoir Stanstead, the Curling Club in Beebe, the Dufferin Heights Golf Club in Stanstead East, Marché Goudreau in Stanstead Township, Fitch Bay Fire Station, Georgeville Fire Station, Ogden Town Hall, the Mail boxes Corner at Copp’s Square in Georgeville, and the Murray Memorial Hall, in Georgeville.
If you’d like information about purchasing an AED call Justin Dewey at 819 876-2759.
Paramedic Justin Dewey, of Ambulance Stanstead, is hoping more people will learn how to use Automatic External Defibrillators, like this one stationed at the Proxim Pharmacy, in Stanstead.