Quite by chance I happened across a small ceremony taking place in Swanage, Dorset where the local community had raised the funds to install a lifesaving defibrillator in the centre of the town.
I spoke to David Corben, one of the main organisers of the committee, who said that in the summer Swanage is filled with holiday makers, so they have raised enough money for eight machines. They are also helping the surrounding villages to have AED (Automated External Defibrillators) installed outside village halls.
The committee, with members from the local Lifeboat, Fire Station, Coast-guards and local hospital, has raised money through fundraising events and local business sponsorship.
Many other communities have also come together and there are now thousands sited across the country and more being installed every month.
The instructions for use are available by dialing 999 and guidance is given over the telephone so no specific training is needed to use the machine. Every day someone like you may help save a life using an AED.
What is a defibrillator or AED?
A defibrillator is a computerised medical device that delivers an electrical current through the chest, which aims to shock the heart back into a normal rhythm allowing it to pump again. Rapid response using automated technology can significantly improve the quality of life of a survivor, as the longer the brain is starved of oxygen, the more damage that can occur. An AED is a portable defibrillator especially designed for people with little or no medical background or knowledge.
When applied to the victim, voice commands and screen messages will guide the user step-by-step through the process and its intelligent technology will only allow it to shock a ‘shockable’ heart rhythm. AED technology opens a window for the public to take on a key role to support emergency services, who would otherwise be hindered by the time it takes to reach the victim. It is argued that AEDs should be as broadly deployed as fire extinguishers and first aid kits.
How Heartsafe began
It all started in 2007 when a local GP referred to the Chew Valley area of North Somerset as “Death Valley”. This was overheard by Clive Setter who lived and worked in the Valley who subsequently spoke to his sister, Trudie Lobban the CEO of the Arrhythmia Alliance Charity. A plan was devised to set up a pilot scheme linked with the Great Western Ambulance Service to place Public Access Defibrillators in secure weatherproof heated cabinets throughout the valley. Some 16 villages were targeted. When local communities were appraised of the initiative and supported it; CPR training sessions commenced.
Now Heartsafe machines are the UK’s leading public access defibrillator suppliers and help charities to install the Heartsine machines. Working with local ambulance trusts they have saved lives of people of all ages, from heart attack victims to those involved in accidents whose hearts have stopped.
They are easy and safe to use, as the user is talked through the procedure by the emergency telephone operator and the machine itself, it is also covered by NHS insurance so there is no fear of a negligence lawsuit.
Talking to Clive Setter, the driving force behind Heartsafe, I was caught up in his enthusiasm for the scheme and the product itself. He proudly told me that a British Heartsafe AED is installed in the White House in case of need by the President of the USA.
Help can take longer to arrive the further away you are from medical facilities. Villages, hamlets, rural locations including hills, fells, beaches and coastal paths are all areas that benefit.
Defibrillators should also be sited in sports clubs, businesses and schools. In fact, anywhere as anyone can have a sudden heart attack, or have an accident that causes a heart to stop.
To find out where your nearest machine is located or for more information on how to get one sited in your community you can go to www.heartsafe.org.uk/ or telephone 01275 333999 or 01275 332323.
You can also get help to organise your own community AED from Community Heartbeat Trust which is the UK’s leading community defibrillator charity by visiting www.communityheartbeat.org.uk or calling 0845 86 277 39.