Thursday, June 08, 2000

Middletown considering defibrillators

By Janet C. Wetzel
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MIDDLETOWN — When heart problems strike, every second counts, and Middletown Fire Chief John Sauter wants the city to have tools available in public places for quick intervention.

        Chief Sauter recently recommended to city commissioners that the city buy automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) to have available if someone goes into cardiac arrest.

        AEDs are thought to be one of medicine's most promising ways of improving emergency first aid for people whose hearts suddenly stop beating. Their use is on the upswing regionally and nationally, in police and fire departments and various other agencies and businesses.

        “You just never know what's going to happen and when you'll need these tools,” said Chief Sauter, who is preparing to seek bids for eight AEDs.

        If commissioners buy the AEDs, estimated to cost $4,000 each, they would be put in all fire pumpers, the municipal building, Weatherwax Golf Course and the community center.

        Commissioners recently approved getting prices after hearing a presentation by a local cardiologist, Dr. Walter Roehll, who told the board AEDs should be available in all public places.

        “If the heart rhythm is not restored in a short time frame, death follows,” Dr. Roehll said. “You lose 10 percent of the people in the first minute. If you go two minutes, it increases to 20 percent. So about five min utes is a long time, and then you have only a 50-50 chance of surviving if defibrillated.”

        AEDs won't help people whose hearts fail because the blood supply is blocked. But by having them available, the survival rate improves significantly, Dr. Roehll said.

        Just this week University of Cincinnati medical officials held a community forum as part of a national study to determine the effectiveness of AEDs in public places. By October the machines will be in trial use at 20 Greater Cincinnati venues, including hotels, shopping malls and entertainment arenas.

        UC research assistant Michael Ottaway said earlier that the study is to determine whether volunteers can be effectively trained in the proper use of the devices.

        AEDs already are used by trained professionals in many Tristate police and fire departments, including Springboro and Clearcreek Township, and other communities are considering them. Airlines, including Delta, are training flight attendants to operate them in flight. Grand Victoria and Argosy casinos on the Ohio River, as well as Cinergy Field, Firstar Center and area businesses, including Procter & Gamble Co. and General Electric Co., have the units.

        But experts say access to the machines is hit or miss in most public places, where more than one-fourth of all sudden cardiac arrests occur.

        “They can definitely save lives,” said Chief Sauter, who said his department has two older-model AEDs at the two stations with no ambulances assigned to them.

        Middletown Commissioner David Schiavone said he wants to see bids on the AEDs. “If we just have one life saved, they're well worth the money.”

        Dr. Roehll said the new AEDs are easy to use and essentially foolproof.

        “You can't shock someone inadvertently,” Dr. Roehll said. But when the AEDs are put in public places, training is essential to help potential users familiarize themselves with them. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training and periodic AED retraining are also important, he said.


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