WMU News

WMU deploys new lifesaving equipment

Oct. 1, 2001

KALAMAZOO -- Western Michigan University is deploying more than a dozen new automatic external defibrillators, dubbed AEDs, around the campus in hopes of helping heart attack victims survive.

Having the new devices readily available at Miller Auditorium, Lawson Ice Arena, the West Hills Athletic Club, Read Fieldhouse and the Student Recreation Center can make a life or death difference, says Dr. Sally Cowles, a physician at Sindecuse Health Center.

"This is the first time we'll have after-hours coverage that can be used within an early enough time period to actually save a life, as opposed to waiting for an ambulance five to 15 minutes after they're called," she says. "And that doesn't include the delay-usually up to four minutes-before the call actually goes out."

In the past, the campus has had access to one AED in Sindecuse, but only during working hours. That meant that for a good portion of the time, the AED was not available, Cowles says.

This new initiative, which cost about $50,000, represents a major step forward in cardiac protection for faculty, staff, students and WMU visitors.

Coronary heart disease kills more than 459,000 people each year in the U.S. with more than half suffering sudden, fatal heart attacks. The American Heart Association estimates that someone suffers a coronary event every 29 seconds, and every minute, a victim dies from one. Of these victims, 95 percent never reach a hospital.

Placement of the University's 13 new AEDs in several venues and inside each of WMU's public safety patrol cars can help improve the grim statistics.

Use of an AED within four to eight minutes of an attack can lead to survival in 20 percent to 49 percent of cases. Chances of survival are reduced by 7 percent to 10 percent with each minute that passes. Few attempts at resuscitation succeed after 10 minutes.

Once the exclusive province of emergency medical personnel, AEDs are becoming commonplace in airplanes, malls, stadiums, public buildings, health clubs, universities and other gathering places. In addition to being credited with saving lives, the machines are compact, easy to use and essentially fool-proof. The AED, which consists of two shock pads attached to a battery- powered computer, will deliver a volt to the victim's heart only if it can determine if a heart attack is taking place.

The Kalamazoo County Medical Control Authority is training designated WMU staff members to use the machines. Each department with access to one of the AEDs is responsible for refresher training, assuring consistency in procedures and keeping trained individuals comfortable with using the devices. Sindecuse Health Center staff members are providing coordination and medical oversight.

"This is becoming a standard of care in communities and public facilities across the country, " Cowles says. "We're talking about a small machine that can make a huge difference."

Media contact: Gail Towns, 616 387-8400, gail.towns@wmich.edu

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