Kiwanis works to fight cardiac arrest

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 13, 2008

NATCHEZ — Somewhere at Cathedral High School there’s a little black bag that school administrators hope they never have to use.

It holds an automated external defibrillator.

The device, about the size and shape of a large lunch box, is the first donation in the area from the Kiwanis Club of the Natchez Trace and cardiologist Dr. Vikram Dulam.

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The purpose of the AED device is to prepare schools in the event a student or teacher suffered from sudden cardiac arrest.

The machine is used to shock an individual’s heart back into normal rhythm.

John Lee, Natchez Community Hospital’s chief operating officer, said 250,000 people die from sudden cardiac arrest each year.

“Of those about 10,000 are young adults,” he said.

Lee said the survival rate for a person who falls victim to sudden cardiac arrest is about 15 percent.

“But with the AED it goes up to about 90 percent,” he said.

Dulam said while the AED can aid in the life saving efforts, the time in which it is used is highly important.

“Timing is key,” he said.

Dulam said for every one minute an individual spends in cardiac arrest the chances of survival go down over a period of up to 10 minutes.

Many young people who die from sudden cardiac arrest are young athletes who had undiagnosed heart problems, Dulam said.

“But this device can help to change that,” he said. “Defibrillators save lives.”

And the ease at which the AED can help to saves lives was impressive to most at Monday’s presentation.

“It’s extremely simple,” he said. “It’s pretty much automatic.”

Angie Brown, the Red Cross’s local chapter manager, will help to train the school’s staff in using the AED.

“It’s extremely easy to use,” she said.

Both Dulam and Brown said the machine, once activated, uses voice prompts to walk the user through the process.

“It’s very, very easy,” he said.

Brown said the machine can even aid in CPR.

“It tells the user if they’re doing the compressions properly or not,” she said. “It’s great.”

Dulam said the machine would be put to best use if it is taken to all the school’s sporting events, just in case.

Pat Sanguinetti, the school’s principal, said he felt confident up to 50 percent of the school’s staff could be trained to use the AED.

“But hopefully we’ll never use it,” he said.

Monday’s presentation to Cathedral marked the first donation to the area.

The Kiwanis’ ultimate goal is to have an AED in every school across the county.

Lee said the machine costs just over $1,300 and is hoping for donations to buy several more for area schools.