Do AEDs Work? Do They Save Lives?

Have you ever been around a car that breaks down? If it’s the battery, what happens next? There’s only one option. The car gets jumped. That requires jumper cables and another running car, or a jump starter (self-contained power source with cables).

Cardiac arrest (or we should say the heart) works the same way. A student collapses in sudden cardiac arrest. There is only one option. Get the automated external defibrillator (AED), which actually looks very similar to the jump starter.

When sudden cardiac arrest occurs, the heart is no longer able to beat in a normal, healthy rhythm. Without the beat, the heart can’t pump blood throughout the body. The only way to get the heart back to a good rhythm is to shock it.

Fortunately, the AED is a smart machine. Once it is turned on, it tells the user exactly what to do. Call 911. Expose the person’s chest. Apply the pads. Wait for the AED to evaluate the heart. Push (or not) the shock button.

There are pictures on the pads so it is easy to figure out where to put them. Once applied, the AED will assess the child’s heart rhythm and decide if a shock is necessary. The AED will then inform the user to deliver the shock (push a button) or skip the shock and go directly to cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

There are fewer steps to use an AED than to jump a car, and the AED (and 911 operator)  coaches you along the way.

AED devices should be readily available like fire extinguishers and smoke detectors. With your help, we’ll make sure that more AEDs are available where kids learn and play.