Learning how to save lives

It used to be that the only way to help someone suffering a heart attack, stroke or similar episode was to administer CPR while waiting for trained professionals to arrive.

But in more recent years small, highly portable defibrillators have become common in New Zealand communities. In Picton alone, there are 11 of these lifesaving devices freely available to the public.

In order to create more awareness and to build people's confidence in their use, St John Ambulance will run two training sessions with the automated external defibrillators (AED).

"They are very simple to use and there is no reason why anyone should not be able to operate one," said St John operations team manager Tony Cronin.

He said that while, thankfully, none of the AEDs in Picton have had to be used, there have been several cases in New Zealand of members of the public successfully using one to save a stranger's life.

"There are several different variations of the AED but they all work in the same way," said Tony.

Designed with the layman in mind the AED talks the person operating it through each step of its use. It is also impossible for the machine to be used on someone who does not require it.

The machine reads the person's heart rate and will only operate if the correct heart rhythm - arrhythmia - is present. Contrary to popular believe the AED is used to stop a person's heart rather than start it.

"What it does is reset the heart by stopping it so it returns it to a normal rhythm," explained Tony. "This isn't a device to be scared of as it can save someone's life."

Training for Picton residents will be on July 26, 7 till 9pm and July 29, 4 till 6pm at the Picton School hall. Each will involve a presentation by St John followed by practical AED training.

The Marlborough Express