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Home > Topics > Safety
July 23, 2014

Ind. county pushes for AEDs in all public buildings

A councilman proposed using a $450K grant over three years to buy 60 defibrillators and place them in public buildings across the county

By John Tuohy
The Indianapolis Star

MARION COUNTY, Ind. — On a pleasant spring morning at the Purdue University campus 10 years ago, Paula Millner tied on her running shoes and went for a jog.

That’s the last thing she remembers about the workout.

Millner, then 20 years old, collapsed in the street after suffering sudden cardiac arrest. A police officer happened to be driving by and saw her go down. He called an ambulance and gave Millner cardiopulmonary resuscitation. The medic arrived in less than five minutes and used a defibrillator to restart Millner’s heart.

Millner, now a pharmacist in Indianapolis, credits the defibrillator with saving her life, and now she supports efforts to place them in as many public places as possible.

That support extends to an Indianapolis City-County councilman’s proposal to require defibrillators in all public buildings in Marion County — a move that some experts say would be one of the most expansive efforts of its kind in the nation.

Leroy Robinson’s proposal would use a $450,000 grant over three years from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to buy 60 automated electronic defibrillators (AEDs) and place them in the City-County Building, parks and recreational centers, police stations, Marion County jails and other busy buildings.

The councilman’s proposal could come up for a committee hearing as early as Aug. 5 and would need committee approval before it could be considered by the full City-County Council.

“If Indianapolis were to pass such an ordinance it would be held up as exemplary,” said Mary Newman, president of the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation.

More than 424,000 people a year suffer sudden cardiac arrest and 90 percent of them die, the foundation says.

The condition differs from a heart attack because the heart stops beating completely and without warning. Usually caused by a genetic or arrhythmic condition, sudden cardiac arrest often strikes teenagers and young adults. Most of the time, ambulances can’t respond fast enough to prevent death.

“When you hear about a student suddenly dropping and dying on a football field, that is usually what we are talking about,” Newman said.

If the paddles and the electric jolt can be applied within a few minutes, the heart restarts and the victim can be returned to full health.

Millner said she suffered from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, in which the heart enlarges, then gets knocked out of rhythm if she exercises too hard. She has since had a defibrillator implanted.

“All I remember from that morning is waking up and putting on my shoes,” she said. “The next thing I knew I’m in the ICU (intensive care unit). I was fortunate. It makes you step back and value what you have, do a lot of soul-searching.”

A study of more than 13,000 sudden cardiac arrest victims, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology in 2010, found that using a defibrillator before an ambulance arrives could increase the chance of survival by 80 percent. The study projected that 470 people a year could be saved by bystanders with broader access to AEDs.

AEDs are now so advanced they can be operated by lay people with no training, said Carl Rochelle III, a spokesman for Indianapolis Emergency Medical Services. The devices cost about $1,200 each.

“It talks to you, tells you just what to do, step by step,” Rochelle said.

Jackie Renfrow said an AED could have saved her two children.

In 2000 her son, Jimmy, died of sudden cardiac arrest at the age 21. Two years later her daughter, Crissy, also was struck by sudden cardiac arrest. She was 22. Both suffered from a genetic cardiac disorder known as long QT syndrome, which was misdiagnosed as epilepsy.

“It would be fantastic if the council put (AEDs) in government buildings and recreational facilities,” Renfrow said. “They are lifesavers.” The Franklin woman heads the local chapter of the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association, a groups separate from the SCAF.

All states have laws requiring defibrillators to varying degrees. In Indiana, they are required only in health clubs. In New York, they are required in schools, Newman said. Federal law requires them on airplanes; every airport has at least one.

Renfrow said placement of AEDs in Indiana is scattered.

Robinson said his Marion County ordinance would not require them in schools.

In Fishers, where all police carry AEDs and all the schools have them, Police Sgt. Troy Fettinger used his AED in February to save a 12-year-old’s life.

Fettinger was at a youth basketball game at Fishers Junior High when Joel Tsetse collapsed. A doctor in the gym gave the boy CPR while Fettinger ran to his car for his defibrillator. He stuck the paddles on Tsetse and gave him a shock, reviving him.

Tsetse suffered from a lethal heart rhythm, ventricular fibrillation, and is doing fine after having the condition treated.

———

McClatchy-Tribune News Service
©2014 The Indianapolis Star

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