The chances of survival should you go into sudden cardiac arrest (a situation where your heart stops beating) are not great, yet these chances are dramatically improved should your heart receive a life-saving surge of electricity from an AED machine. The Cayman Heart Fund has therefore made it its mission to have such a device in as many public places and private offices and dwelling as possible throughout Cayman, so that everyone’s chances of survival are increased should the worst happen. Business Editor, Lindsey Turnbull reports on the Fund’s progress.
Paul Dewing was out walking his dogs one evening on Pedro Castle Road when he was suddenly struck by a car and was severely injured, so badly in fact that the paramedics tending to him said that he had to be defibrillated.
“I felt no pain as I was unconscious but I did have a flashback to the ‘restart’ in the plane, which was accompanied by a heat sensation in my chest. There was no question that the defibrillator saved my life. Of course without the skills of the medics and doctors, the machines would be useless. Also the highly skilled follow up care saved me as well,” he states.
Defibrillators come in all shapes and sizes, some (like the one that most likely saved Paul Dewing’s life) are highly advanced and can only be used by trained medical personnel; however some have been designed especially for ordinary individuals to administer in an emergency situation.
An Automated External Defibrillator is a medical device that has been adapted for use by a layperson that delivers an electric shock to a heart that is not beating or is beating abnormally. Dr. Sook Yin, Medical Practitioner and the Cayman Heart Fund’s Medical Director says that such a situation may be life and death:
“This condition is known as sudden cardiac arrest and is fatal 95 per cent of the time. It is estimated that a person’s chance of survival drops 10 per cent for every minute that passes between cardiac arrest and getting the heart restarted. That is why an AED is crucial to a person’s survival chances. It is the only effective treatment for patients facing such a medical crisis. The electrical charge delivered by an AED can often correct the heart’s rhythm and restore blood flow to the body with supportive CPR. The technology has long been used in the hospital setting and has now been adapted for pre-hospital and layperson use.”
Tried and tested technology
It is important to know that an AED cannot hurt a patient.
Yin explains: “Once placed on a person’s chest, the AED analyses their heart rhythm and will not deliver the electric shock unless it is medically appropriate. The machine’s automated voice commands even instruct the user in what to do every step of the way.”
Never-the-less, part of the CHF’s campaign to get AED machines installed island-wide is also to ensure that people working or living at the establishment are trained in how to use an AED.
“The Red Cross, under Training Manager Peter Hughes, provides excellent instruction on how to use a machine, a part of its CPR training,” Dr Yin explains.
Hughes says: “AED machines have been on-island since 2004 and the Red Cross has been providing instruction in how to operate the machine as part of its standard CPR course. The course lasts six and a half hours and those who attend receive two qualifications: in AED/CPR training and also in first aid. Those who will use their new skills as Red Cross volunteers or are part of shelter teams as designated by the government do not have to pay for the course; others pay CI$110 although there are discounts for group bookings. Recertification in CPR/AED is required annually and recertification in first aid is required every three years.”
Local Cayman company Emergency Signals and Supplies, run by Collin Redden and his assistant Machardo Young, has worked with the Cayman Heart Fund supplying machines and servicing machines to ensure that they are continually in full working order.
The Cayman Heart Fund initiative
The CHF decided to appeal directly to businesses, condominiums, care homes, schools and government entities to assess the interest for installing such a machine. The response was good and in the first phase the Fund brought a total of 22 machines to Cayman. The first machine was installed at Government House in June. As the Patron of the Cayman Heart Fund, the Governor, Stuart Jack, has been a keen supporter of the AED initiative and welcomed the chance to lead the way by having a machine installed in the hallway at Government House.
Other recent installations include one at The Pines Retirement Home, thanks to a donation by Higgs Johnson Truman Bodden & Co and their clients.
Veronica Fierro from the firm says: “We are pleased, at Higgs Johnson Truman Bodden & Co, to have such caring clients as Mr. and Mrs. Agar, who want to make a difference in our community. We know that this AED machine will save many lives in the months and years to come.”
Sue Nicholson, manager at The Pines says: “We are very pleased to have the AED machine installed at The Pines, not only for the safety of our residents, but also for the health of our visitors and our staff. It is reassuring to know that we have such an important potentially life-saving device on hand and we are sincerely grateful to Higgs & Johnson and their clients for making this possible.”
Two schools have also recently received an AED machine: Savannah Primary School and Bodden Town Primary School, thanks to the donation of machines by Health Minister Mark Scotland and MLA Dwayne Seymour. Both Scotland and Seymour had decided to make the donation to the schools well before they were elected into government in May this year.
Seymour confirms: “You don’t have to be an elected government official to want to help. Having grown up in Cayman’s first capital (Bodden Town) I feel it is important that we ensure that Bodden Town comes alive again and becomes a vibrant centre for the island, so I was happy to donate the AED machines to the schools so that they are well equipped in an emergency situation.”
Scotland adds: “We felt that it was important to give back to the community in which we grew up and donating an AED machine is a positive step in this way. The Savannah and Bodden Town Primary schools are both hurricane shelters so we felt it was extremely important for both premises to be fully equipped with these life saving devices.”
The Cayman Islands Monetary Authority has been another entity to embrace the need for an AED machine, also taking delivery of their own device in June.
Managing Director, Cindy Scotland, explains: “We have a staff that is growing in number (currently at 150) and therefore the Authority has launched a campaign targeted specifically at its staff’s welfare. We are introducing CPR courses as well as training in self-defence and wellness programmes, among others. Installing an AED machine is another way for the CIMA to cater to the wellbeing of its staff.”
Gilda Moxam-Murray is the Authority’s Chief Financial Officer and says she has a personal reason for supporting the installation of the AED machine: “I lost my father to a massive heart attack earlier this year and so I feel this is a very important move for the Authority.”
Other entities which have taken up the cause include The Hard Rock Café, The Great House, Sovereign, Cayman Club, First Caribbean Bank, Walkers attorneys-at-law, Cayman National Bank, Ernst & Young and Deidre Biles.
Dr Yin says that the Cayman Heart Fund has been delighted so far with the response and the Fund has just placed a second order for more AED machines.
Jump on the bandwagon
The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman was one of the first entities in the Cayman Islands to equip its premises with AED machine. The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman Director of Loss Prevention Ed Sowinski says: “Making Automatic External Defibrillators easily accessible and training staff members in their proper use has the potential to save many lives. The Ritz Carlton Hotel Company strives to take any and all measures to ensure that our guests’ genuine care and comfort are our number one priority.”
Two years ago the machine was urgently required, and quite possibly saved the life of a Ritz-Carlton guest. Resort security officers Jason Hanlon and Irving Williams (who were both trained with paramedic qualifications), administered three shocks to a collapsed guest with a defibrillator. The paramedic who attended the guest said that they had most likely saved the guest’s life by their action.
Paul Dewing is in total support of the CHF’s initiative and says: “I would have been even if I had not been subject of use myself. As a law enforcement officer of over 15 years service I feel the network of machines is vital, together with properly trained operators. It is relatively simple to offer coverage in such a small country.”
Dewing, who is currently fighting an unlawful discharge case with his former employer says he will, if successful in his case, provide one or two machines for the network, and says he has also volunteered his time, either to be trained as an operator, or to act as a spokesperson or trainer.
“Without the machines, in addition to all the skilled medics, doctors and nurses, my family would now be mourning me death. I want to do what I can to promote the cause, so that other families have a chance to enjoy their loved ones, where otherwise they may face a tragic and preventable loss.”