It is well known that when someone suffers a cardiac emergency, seconds count.
Training in Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) in the event of a cardiac arrest can help buy time by keeping a victim’s brain and organs at least partially oxygenated, however it doesn’t do anything to help the underlying heart issue.
In many cases, when a heart arrests it enters a state of fibrillation, which is, according to Miriam-Webster dictionary, a “muscular twitching involving muscle fibres without coordination.” When the heart starts quivering, it is unable to push blood causing collapse.
This is where Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) come in.
AEDs are small devices consisting of electronics, a battery pack, and electrodes designed to attach to the skin of some who is down. The machine can analyze the electrical signal emitted from the heart, tell if it is fibrillating, and if so, administer a shock to effectively reset the heart beat.
Thanks to significant advancements in AED technology, the machines can actually guide someone through the appropriate steps in a cardiac arrest, though first aid training is always recommended.
According to the Heart and Stroke Canada website, AEDs can increase the survival rate of a cardiac arrest victim by 75 per cent if applied in a timely manner. However, the trick is getting these life-saving devices into the public’s hands.
Thanks to a local group, Smile Like Emily, led by Leanne Lougheed, getting AEDs into the public’s hands has been made somewhat easier in Castor.
Lougheed’s daughter, Emily, died while on a family holiday several years ago. While an AED was used, due to an un-diagnosed heart condition Emily didn’t survive; however, the experience got Lougheed thinking about the community she calls home and how “heart safe” it really was.
Using crowd funding and fundraisers, including a grant from Paintearth’s 100 Women chapter, over $30,000 was raised in 2022, allowing the group to purchase four AEDs and a couple of cabinets from Save Station, a Canadian vendor.
With support from the Town of Castor, one of the machines has been mounted on the corner of the town office between the office and library building, and one has been mounted over at the Elks Shed by the ball diamonds and golf course.
One more is slated to be installed on a freestanding stand near Gus Wetter School in the spring of 2023. The location for the fourth one is to be determined.
As the machines are designed by a Canadian manufacturer, they are designed for the harsh climates seen on the prairies in winter months. To keep them from freezing, the cabinets are hooked to power and the machines rest on a heating pad. Additionally, the batteries are constantly are constantly connect to power so the machines are always ready to go.
“They’re accessible in all conditions,” said Lougheed.
While the machines are in easily-accessible outdoor cabinets, the machines are secured in such a way that alarms go off if they are removed from the cabinet, such as in an emergency situation.
When removed from the cabinet, the machines can be easily carried to the victim, and the shock-pads come pre-attached for both adults and children.
“They’re very user friendly,” said Lougheed.
While the machines need to be checked on a monthly basis, the batteries are scheduled to last for up to four years. Smile like Emily will continue fundraising to provide the ongoing maintenance for the machines, as well as raise funds for the purchase of more machines down the road.