In the time it takes you to read this page, sudden cardiac arrest will have claimed another victim. In the past year, 250,000 Americans died of sudden cardiac arrest: nearly one death every two minutes. Up to 50,000 of these deaths could have been prevented if an automated external defibrillator (AED) had been available for immediate use at the time of the emergency. Heart attacks, accidents and other conditions can cause ventricular fibrillation. In ventricular fibrillation, the electrical signals in the lower part of the heart are uncoordinated and ineffective. Very little blood is pumped from the heart to the body or the lungs. If ventricular fibrillation is not treated, it will result in brain damage and death in just a few minutes.
An AED consists of a small computer (microprocessor), electrodes, and electrical circuitry. The electrodes collect information about the heart's rhythm. The microprocessor interprets the rhythm. If the heart is in ventricular fibrillation, the microprocessor recommends a defibrillating shock. The shock is delivered by adhesive electrode pads, through the victim's chest wall, and into the heart, stunning the heart momentarily; stopping all activity. This gives the heart a chance to restart normal electrical activity and resume beating effectively.
AEDs are very accurate and easy to use and anyone can learn to operate an AED safely. The American Heart Association strongly advocates that all EMS first-response vehicles and ambulances be equipped with an AED or another defibrillation device (semiautomatic or manual defibrillator). The AHA also supports placing AEDs in targeted public areas such as sports arenas, gated communities, office complexes, doctor's offices, shopping malls, etc.
Soroptimist International of Fidalgo Island has been a primary advocate for the placement of AEDs in Anacortes since 2001. With help from our generous sponsors including Anacortes Family Medical Group, John L Scott Realty, Scott Richards Insurance, the local Shell Refinery, Island Hospital, Soroptimist International of Anacortes and other area service clubs, SIFI placed two AEDs in first-response vehicles and is committed to a third within the Anacortes School District. Advocacy and education has led to the formation of a community group solely dedicated to continued AED placement in Anacortes - a legacy to the Soroptimist ideals of awareness, advocacy and action.