Lifesaving AEDs: Know your nearest

Filemoni Fa'avae, left and Nathan Fa'avae have both had heart problems.
MARTIN DE RUYTER

Filemoni Fa'avae, left and Nathan Fa'avae have both had heart problems.

Using a defibrillator during cardiac arrest doubles the chance of the patient's survival. Yet of the 108 AEDs in the region, only three of them are accessible 24/7. Sara Meij reports on the importance of these life saving machines being publicly accessible at all times. 

Filemoni Fa'avae was playing golf with his son, world champion multisport athlete Nathan Fa'avae, at the Nelson Golf Course in April when he collapsed.

They were getting towards the end of their game when his father got into trouble, Nathan said.

"We were just driving on in the golf cart, chatting, [then] he had cardiac arrest and basically collapsed on me."

A defibrillator, also known as AED, at the club is credited with helping to save Filemoni's life. 

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Nathan said his dad's medical event didn't come completely out of the blue given previous heart issues. 

The vast amount of first aid training he has as an outdoor instructor meant he knew he needed to start CPR as soon as possible.

"[I thought the] first thing I need to do is get help, I was driving the golf cart so I basically just sort of grabbed hold of him so he wouldn't fall out and just went zooming back to the club house." 

He yelled out to people to call an ambulance.

"So I actually just stopped there where the people were with the phone and pulled my father out on the ground and started CPR.

"I wanted to get a defibrillator, and to be honest, I've never really used one before and you know, didn't know much about it.

"I just knew that at some point that's what we needed to get."

Nathan said "everything happened really quickly" and soon two golfers pulled up in another cart, asking if they could help by getting the AED from the club house. 

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"She came back within a minute or so. I suspect she must have known where it was."

He said neither of them had used an AED before, but they realised after opening it up that it was "super easy".

"We gave Dad a few jolts and he just sort of coughed and sputtered a bit and we resumed CPR, then stopped CPR for a minute and did another reading with the defibrillator."

Shortly after the ambulance arrived and took over.

"Next thing my Dad was off to hospital."

 

Nathan lost his mother in 2013 when she had a medical event while driving, which resulted in her losing consciousness.

She drowned when the vehicle left the road and submerged in Saltwater Creek near Port Nelson, despite efforts by rescuers and emergency services staff to save her life.

Nathan's father and nephew Ali Fa'avae-Mika were rescued from the submerged car.

With that horrible accident at the back of his mind, Nathan managed to keep focused during the cardiac arrest of his father.

"It happened so quick, there wasn't any idle time, you just have to snap into what you're trained to do," he said.

"I wasn't sure if my Dad was going to make it, this could be it, he could be gone as a result of this."

Luckily Nathan's dad survived the cardiac arrest but is still recovering. 

The fact Filemoni's cardiac arrest happened during club hours meant the AED could be easily retrieved.

But what if something was to happen outside of club hours? 

THE NEED FOR ACCESSIBLE AEDS

Nelson hospital cardiologist Dr Tammy Pegg said it was extremely important for AEDs to be publicly available and easily accessible at all times. 

"You only got about three minutes before the brain starts to die in this situation. CPR and good access to an AED saves lifes.

"So we need to create a network of these devices around so nobody is any more than sort of a two minute run from an AED."

Pegg said there was no evidence to suggest AEDs placed outdoors were getting vandalised.

"And a lot of other things are outdoors such as phone boxes and post boxes and they seem to be OK. Why is this any different?"

Nelson Hospital cardiology registrar Thalib Mowjood visited all of the 108 AEDs from Glenduan to Appleby and Hope to check their accessibility.

He found that only three of those devices were accessible to the public 24/7. The "gold standard" of availability is when the AED is accessible without needing to ask for assistance.

"An example of that is outside the MiGym in Buxton Square [in Nelson], there's an externally mounted device that members of the public can open up by breaking some glass, [getting] the key and opening the box [with the AED in it].

"[But] the majority of them were in businesses and there were some schools, library and so forth. Typically most devices were located within the premises of a building which was only open within the opening hours."

Mowjood said the AEDs that were located within buildings often weren't directly visible to the public and would require assistance from somebody in the building.

"While it was really pleasing to see that there were so many devices out there ... there's some room for improvement in public accessibility of AEDs."

He said the use of an AED doubles the chance of surviving a cardiac arrest. However, in only 6 per cent of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest cases that happened in public spaces a defibrillator was used.

"The fact that these devices are often tucked away somewhere out the back of the office is potentially part of the reason [they're often not getting used]."

Only 21 of the 108 available AEDs were government owned, meaning the remaining 87 were privately owned by organisations.

Mowjood said the defibrillators were often placed inside a building due to the organisations' concerns for vandalism if they were to be mounted outside, prominently in view. 

However, the cases that housed the AEDs could have anti-tampering features on them, such as having to break the glass on the box before getting to the defibrillator as well as alarms that were activated when the box was opened. 

"It's possible that businesses are not making these available to the general public because they feel they need their primary aim is to make sure it's available for their customers. 

"But on the other hand ... having their devices available for the public to use is one way of demonstrating they're contributing to the community and potentially saving a life." 

A guide to where to find AEDs in New Zealand can be explored via aedlocations.co.nz or by downloading the app "AED Locations" on your smartphone from the App Store or Google Play.

Shortly after the ambulance arrived and took over.

"Next thing my Dad was off to hospital."

Nathan lost his mother in 2013 when she had a medical event while driving, which resulted in her losing consciousness.

She drowned when the vehicle left the road and submerged in Saltwater Creek near Port Nelson, despite efforts by rescuers and emergency services staff to save her life.

Nathan's father and the couple's grandson Ali Fa'avae-Mika were rescued from the submerged car. 

With that horrible accident at the back of his mind, Nathan managed to keep focused during the cardiac arrest of his father. 

"It happened so quick, there wasn't any idle time, you just have to snap into what you're trained to do," he said.

"I wasn't sure if my Dad was going to make it, this could be it, he could be gone as a result of this."

 - Stuff

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