SCA (Sudden Cardiac Arrest) can happen to anyone at any time, from young children and healthy adults to seniors and everyone in between. In fact, SCA kills over 20,000 people in Australia alone each year. We’re on a mission to decrease this number and save lives by encouraging access to a defibrillator in every workplace, on every worksite, at every school and university, and in every public space. One day, we hope to see a defibrillator available in every home across Australia! Whilst this is not quite our reality right now, we want to educate as many people about SCA and how we can work together to save a life in the critical moment.
What Makes Someone Vulnerable to SCA?
Some people have higher risks of experiencing SCA than others, but these aren’t signs that are easy to spot or issues that are easy to manage, which is why it often seems like sudden cardiac arrest strikes out of nowhere – like lightning.
It’s good to be aware of these risk factors however, as this knowledge is key to helping to prevent and act in the event of SCA. These risk factors include:
- Previous heart attacks or strokes (these are very different to SCA, but a heart attack or stroke can result in SCA and people who have experienced these health conditions before are at higher risk of experiencing them again).
- A family history of heart conditions, including heart attacks, stroke, or SCA.
- Having an abnormal heart rate or heart rhythm, including Brugada’s syndrome or long QT syndrome.
- Having coronary heart disease or high cholesterol.
- Having diabetes or chronic kidney disease.
- Having a heart defect (this is often the case when SCA occurs in young children).
- Having an enlarged heart (cardiomyopathy).
- Having valvular heart disease (small heart valves).
- Severe lack of magnesium and potassium.
- Using illegal drugs.
Why Do We Need More Defibrillators?
The key word in SCA is “sudden”. SCA occurs incredibly quickly, often without symptoms beforehand. A person may feel under the weather, fatigued, faint, nauseas or have chest pain beforehand, but often SCA can strike without warning.
During SCA, the heart immediately stops functioning, as the electrical pulses that tell the heart when to beat are interrupted. As a result, the heart goes into a spasm, immediately stopping the flow of oxygenated blood to the brain and organs. The person will immediately fall unconscious, stop breathing and become unresponsive.
Because the flow of oxygen to the brain and organs stops, these essential systems begin to die very quickly. For the person to survive and damage to these organs minimised, the flow of oxygenated blood has to be restored very quickly – far more quickly than it will take any ambulance to reach you. In fact, for every minute they remain untreated, their chance for survival decreases by 10%. For this reason, we all need defibrillators close by.
Using a defibrillator will provide a controlled, safe electric shock to the heart. This shock will jolt the heart out of its spasm and restore regular heartbeat and oxygen flow. A person may need one or more shocks to restore their heart rhythm.
What Defibrillators are Best?
We’ve all seen medical dramas where the doctors use a defibrillator and, to be honest, they look pretty intimidating – especially if you’ve had no First Aid or medical training! That’s why the AED (automated external defibrillator) was developed.
The AED is designed to be used by anyone – even a child – even if they have no medical training whatsoever. They are very safe and very simple, as well as being compact and affordable. That’s why our team recommends an AED as the right choice for your workplace, school, hotel, body corporate or camping ground’s emergency medical kit.
AEDs come in a self-contained pack and use simple voice commands to tell you exactly what to do and when to do it. There are two main types of AED – a semi-automatic AED and a fully-automatic AED. The main difference between the two is that the semi-automatic AED will instruct you when to push a button that will trigger the electric shock, while the fully-automatic AED will apply this shock by itself when the correct moment occurs.
We also recommend that you buy a high-quality AED from a trusted brand, as this ensures it will work reliably during an emergency, and that you can easily get replacement parts for your device. Good brands to look at include Phillips, Mediana, LifePak and HeartSine.
What Should I Do in the Event of SCA?
First, you need to establish that the person is experiencing SCA and not a heart attack. In the event of SCA, the person will:
- Collapse and be unresponsive
- Stop breathing
- Fall unconscious
If they are responding to you and trying to breathe, then it is not SCA. You should keep the AED handy, however, as a heart attack or stroke can cause SCA.
Next, call emergency services (000). You can keep them on the line on speaker as you assist, in order to provide support and additional instruction. Fetch the AED. Move the person away from any fluids if necessary, and remove all clothing from their chest.
Switch the AED on and follow all instructions on where to place the electrode pads and how to perform bystander CPR (chest compressions without mouth-to-mouth).
The AED will advise you when a shock will be performed so that you can stop bystander CPR and remove your hands from the person. Deliver the shock as advised by the AED and immediately resume bystander CPR.
The AED will monitor the person’s heart rhythm and inform you if it needs to perform an additional shock.
Repeat until the person is breathing or emergency services arrive to take over. It’s a good idea to get someone to help you, as performing bystander CPR is hard work.
Get a Portable Defibrillator for Your Office, School, Hotel or Body Corporate
DefibsPlus is an established provider of AED portable defibrillators in Australia. We believe that together, we can make community spaces safer by empowering people to save lives.
In addition to stocking AEDs and replacement parts from leading brands, we also offer defibrillator training as well as storage and signage for emergency medical cabinets. Contact us today for more information.