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Don't be scared of using defibrillators

February 14, 2007
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Don't be scared of using defibrillators

By Heather Lalley
Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)
Orginally published Sept. 13, 2006

Laurie Moyer was in the car, waiting to pick up her teenage son from the airport, when her cell phone rang.

"He said, 'Mom, you need to come in. You need to come in now. There's a lady who's down,'" Moyer recalls.

Moyer, a nurse for Spokane Public Schools, rushed into the airport. There, she found an 82-year-old woman on the ground, unconscious.

She called for someone to get a defibrillator — a battery-powered device that shocks the heart back into normal rhythm. And she started CPR.

Although she had never used an automated external defibrillator, or AED, she had no trouble, she says. The device "talks" the user step-by-step through the process, and it will only administer a shock to someone with an abnormal, or absent, heart rhythm.

"People should not be afraid of them," she says.

She ended up shocking the woman twice, all the while continuing CPR, before emergency-medical technicians arrived.

The woman was from St. Louis, on her way to Montana with family. She ended up spending 10 days in Deaconess Medical Center before going home.

"I just feel fortunate just being able to help," Moyer says.

Spokane International Airport is one of a growing number of public places, as well as private businesses, in the Inland Northwest placing AEDs on site.

"There's tons of them," says Ray Tansy, administrator for Spokane County Emergency Medical Services. "It's been growing. There's been a lot of publicity."

Many Washington state offices have the defibrillators, as well as numerous credit unions and banks. You also can find AEDs at area shopping malls, the Spokane Arena and convention center, several churches, hotels, casinos and many other locations, Tansy says.

There aren't currently any defibrillators in Spokane Public Schools, but a committee has been looking into buying some of them, says Kathe Reed-McKay, the district's coordinator of health services.

As the devices have dropped in price (they now run anywhere from $1,000 to $3,500) and people have become more familiar with their lifesaving abilities, more and more locations are purchasing them, Tansy says.

The airport bought 10 defibrillators about two years ago and placed them throughout the facility, says Bruce Millsap, airport fire chief. The goal is to have one device not more than a 60-second walk from anywhere in the building.

"After that, the odds of being able to convert somebody back to a normal rhythm drop significantly," Millsap says.

The devices are not an excuse to stop learning CPR, however. CPR helps buy a patient time by keeping blood and oxygen circulating, even if electrical shocks don't work, he says.

The incident with Moyer at the end of July was the second time the AEDs at the airport were used this summer, he says.

Moyer has kept in touch with the family of the elderly woman she resuscitated at the airport. Last she heard, the woman was in a nursing home, regaining her strength, Moyer says.

To recognize her good deed, Southwest Airlines offered her free tickets anywhere in the United States, she says. If she accepts them, she says she'd probably fly to St. Louis to visit the woman and her family.

"People shouldn't be afraid (of AEDs) — and trust me, I was," Moyer says. "I'm not an emergency nurse. I'm just a little school nurse."

Copyright 2006 Spokane Spokesman-Review


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