Guest Blog from
What you need to know to restart a heart
Cardiac arrest is exactly what it sounds like – your heart stops beating. It can happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime, at any age. A cardiac arrest occurs on average in Canada every 15 minutes. If it happens to you and no one’s around who can help, your odds of surviving are extremely low. But if someone’s nearby who performs CPR on you, your odds of surviving improve; if that person uses an Automated External Defibrillator (AED), your odds of surviving double.
At Heart & Stroke, we are committed to improving outcomes for people who experience cardiac arrest, and one clear-cut way to improve outcomes is to encourage people everywhere to learn CPR and how to use an AED. You don’t need medical training to do either – you just need the willingness to learn and the courage to act.
Shedding light on AEDs
An AED is a small, portable device that is used to reset the electrical activity in a heart that has stopped beating effectively – to restart the heart, in other words. It does this by delivering an electrical shock to the heart. It will only provide an electrical shock if needed – which means you cannot hurt someone with an AED, you can only help.
You’ve probably seen AEDs in public places across Canada such as schools, sports arenas, shopping centres, airports and offices. They are there for emergencies and designed to be used by anyone. You just turn it on and follow the voice prompts. There are also diagrams to help if visual aids work better for you.
Understanding cardiac arrest
When someone’s experiencing cardiac arrest, every second counts. The blood flow to their brain and vital organs is cut off, and that person is in a medical emergency. If you see someone collapse suddenly, not breathing or gasping and clearly in trouble, that person may be in cardiac arrest – and you’ll need to respond quickly. Emergency medical services (EMS) could be several minutes away.
Call 911 or get someone else to. The dispatcher may be able to tell you the location of the nearest AED, as well as help guide you in using it. If you know CPR, start it right away and ask someone to get the AED. Performing CPR keeps the blood circulating around the body and buys time for that person until the AED arrives, but the only way to restart a heart is by administering an electrical shock using an AED.
Ensuring AEDs are accessible and rescue-ready
If you’re involved in buying an AED, most distributors will help you assess the best location to place your AED. Once it’s installed in your facility, everyone in your community should know where the AED is and how to use it. Make sure that there’s plenty of signage around the facility, and that you get the word out – from a town hall to a mass email to a local publication – about the AED.
Your distributor should be willing to train you on several aspects of the AED – from monthly maintenance checks and changing accessories, to follow-up procedures in case you use the AED. They should also be able to supply you with replacement parts you may need, which tend to be pads, batteries and supplies for your rescue-ready kit.
If the AED was used in an event, the distributor will have a process in place to download the event data from the AED’s software, if necessary, and return it to ready-to-use status for your facility. If changes or updates need to be made to the software (to make sure it complies with Heart & Stroke’s most recent guidelines), the manufacturers will notify you.
Finally, make sure that your distributor has a plan in place so that, if there’s a recall or warranty issue, your facility is never left without an AED.
Visit here to register your AED on PEI.