When Haylands Primary School, Ryde had their defibrillator stolen in October 2016 I struggled to find the words to express my shock and huge disappointment. Thankfully at the time, the IW NHS Trust Ambulance service was in a position to be able to replace the device, meaning the Island community was once again provided with a 24/7 Public Access Defibrillator at the site. Now, two and half years later, the stolen defibrillator has been handed in to St Mary’s Hospital after being found under a bush by children playing football. The live saving piece of equipment is currently undergoing maintenance to see if it is still usable.
Stealing or vandalising a Public Access Defibrillator (PAD) can mean that someone dies. When someone goes into cardiac arrest (this means they are unconscious and not breathing normally) their survival rate without a defibrillator is likely to be less than 7% however this can increase up to 74% with early defibrillation.
Every minute you delay defibrillation to someone who needs it, their chance of survival decreases by 10%. The first three minutes of a cardiac arrest are the most crucial; when someone rings 999 for the Ambulance their system automatically flags up the nearest defibrillator within a 200 metre radius.
There are currently over 400 known defibrillators across the Island and many of these are accessible 24/7. Some are in rural areas, others in town centres and some are within businesses, residential/nursing homes, dental practices and medical/health centres. Some are in locked boxes but the owner and the local Ambulance Service have the lock codes and in an emergency the 999 call taker will give this code to the rescuer.
Although the British Heart Foundation and the Resuscitation Council UK recommend that we do not put locks on the outside wall defibrillator boxes, unfortunately we have had to do so in some areas because of vandalism. We’d rather people run to a locked box than an empty one.
How does an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) work?
If someone is having a cardiac arrest you’ll be advised by the 999 Ambulance call assessor to perform Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR). This is where the rescuer performs chest compressions (and ideally rescue breaths too if possible) to act as an oxygen delivery system for the casualty as their heart is not able to do it for them. Sadly cardiac arrest can happen to anyone of any age however; early bystander CPR and defibrillation can very much help to save lives.
You activate an AED by pressing an on/off button or opening the lid, it will talk you immediately and you just need to follow the voice prompts. You can be on the phone to the ambulance service at the same time and the call assessor will be able to guide you too. The defibrillators can be used without training, however many people feel training gives them more confidence.
The public often worry that might cause harm, but it’s the Automated External Defibrillator that will analyse the casualty’s heart rhythm and make a decision whether to deliver a defibrillator shock or not so you can’t do it wrong. The only thing you can do wrong is to be too afraid to use it. Once someone is in cardiac arrest it can’t get any worse, they are going to die unless someone tries to help.
If you ever see anyone maliciously tampering with a Public Access Defibrillator please report it to the police immediately, your call could save someone’s life.
You can find your nearest defibrillator on an interactive map on the website at www.isleofwightambulance.co.uk (some privately owned defibrillators are not listed here but are with the ambulance service.)