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July 22, 2010

AEDs continue to get workout on campus

aedPitt’s automated external defibrillators (AEDs) are continuing to get an unexpected workout this year.

Although the Pitt police report the number of “aided case” calls (most of which involve minor injuries or illness on campus) in 2010 is on par with last year, AEDs have been used in four instances so far, compared with none in 2009.

AEDs analyze a victim’s heart rhythm. If an irregular heartbeat is detected, the device instructs the user through voice prompts to administer a shock designed to encourage the heart to resume beating normally.

Most recently, University Club staff and Pitt police revived a 76-year-old woman who fell ill while attending a July 3 wedding reception at the club.

In a June 21 call, Pitt police responded to the Kaufmann Medical Building on Fifth Avenue, where a man had stopped with an unconscious woman in his vehicle. According to police, officers and guards performed CPR on her and utilized the AED until medics arrived.

In earlier incidents in which AEDs were used, a campus Sodexo employee collapsed in a June 2 meeting at the Eureka Building and a sociology faculty member was revived after collapsing on a University Club treadmill April 15. (See June 10 University Times.)

AEDs are available in a number of University buildings and other public places and Pitt police routinely carry portable versions on all calls for medical assistance, but the resuscitation devices were not used in any of the 295 aided cases reported in 2009.

“This is a piece of equipment that when I started working was unheard of. It was for emergency rooms,” said Pitt police chief Tim Delaney, who joined the force in 1972. “This is technology taking us to the next level.”

By virtue of proximity, Pitt police often are first on the scene of on-campus medical emergencies, but victims have the additional benefit of speedy response by city medics and quick access to care at five nearby hospitals. “They’re benefiting from this level of layers of first aid,” the chief said.

Pitt police have been carrying AEDs for a decade (see Nov. 22, 2000, University Times) and the number of AEDs in campus buildings has been increased to 73, according to the Department of Environmental Health and Safety.

Bystanders also have figured into the resuscitation efforts. University Club staff assisted in both incidents that occurred there, Delaney said. And fellow gym users trained in CPR sprang into action when sociology lecturer Mike Epitropoulos fell ill on the treadmill.

Among the proponents of AED and CPR training on campus is the Staff Association Council, which regularly coordinates AED and CPR classes. “I think it’s a good idea for everyone,” said SAC safety committee chair Rick Fabean, noting that even though AEDs are available, some people may be intimidated by them. “It’s good to have more people trained,” he said. “It would be good if more people would do it.”

SAC’s next AED/CPR training sessions are to be held in the fall. Dates have yet to be announced.

Nashaun Forney of the Pitt police, an American Heart Association (AHA) instructor, conducts the SAC-sponsored classes. He provides CPR and first aid training on a quarterly basis for the police department in conjunction with the Center for Emergency Medicine. The department’s training includes police officers, guards, dispatchers and office staff. Forney also provides training for employees in other campus departments on request.

He said the AHA is among the sources for kits that can be ordered online to permit CPR practice at home, but those seeking CPR certification must have their skills evaluated in person by an instructor.

Currently, AED training is included as part of CPR classes. For those who might be intimidated by the devices, Forney said he would demonstrate the simplicity by letting his 6-year-old daughter follow the AED’s prompts for the class.

“Once people see it once, they’re okay with it,” he said.

The model of AED used at the University “literally talks you step-by-step” through the process, Forney said. “It gives you feedback through every phase of the rescue situation” so, even without formal training, a bystander could follow the prompts.

Forney said research shows that CPR skills can be lost if not used, so it’s important to brush up on CPR skills periodically. The AHA currently recommends recertification every two years.

In addition, Forney suggested that people who have received CPR training review their course material quarterly.

“In a highly stressful situation, it’s better to be fresh. If you’re comfortable with your skills you’ll react and do what you need to do,” Forney said.

—Kimberly K. Barlow

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