Automated External Defibrillator is worth the price

By Lesley Jenkins
star staff

Gary Smith is alive today because of donations collected a couple years ago at a local fire station. The donations were not collected just for him, but in an attempt to save a person's life who is suffering cardiac arrest. Smith was fortunate enough to have his heart attack in a close proximity to the fire station which increased his chances of survival.
   West Carter County Fire Department members and several churches donated money to purchase an Automated External Defibrillator in case something like this ever happened they could be prepared to offer care in the crucial first minutes after a heart attack.
   According to the American Heart Association (AHA), in cities where defibrillation is provided within five to seven minutes, the survival rate from sudden cardiac arrest is as high as 49 percent. According to the WCCFD, First Responders were on scene within three minutes of the call.
   Smith was refereeing a basketball game at Happy Valley Middle School Tuesday night when he suffered a massive heart attack during the fourth quarter. Luckily, several nurses and volunteer firefighters were in the stands and were able to immediately start Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation.
   Combined rescue efforts by the fans and by First Responders of the West Carter County Fire Department saved Smith's life. According to his doctors, Smith would likely have not survived if CPR was started any later or if his heart was not shocked back into a normal rhythm by the AED.
   In the original story, published in the Nov. 19 edition of the Star, the AED was credited with belonging to the Carter County Rescue Squad. However, the AED that saved Smith's life belongs to the WCCFD, and was purchased in 2001 by the volunteer firefighters for $3,000.
   "This was not the first time that the AED has been hooked to a patient. It was the second time that it had actually defibrillated someone. Both times we have regained a pulse on the patient," said Kevin Eller, volunteer fireman, First Responder.
   "The first three people on the scene from the station with the defibrillator were myself, Brian Hartsook, Emergency Medical Technician, and Kim Trammell, First Responder and EMT student. J.D. Hill attached the pads to Mr. Smith and Kim Trammell actually operated the AED, analyzing the rhythm and pressing the shock button when advised to by the AED, because it voice prompts everything," said Eller.
   More and more businesses, schools and emergency departments are searching for ways to purchase these expensive machines. Although at an average price of $2,500, the price of saving someone's life outweighs the initial investment.
   Carter County schools are beginning to look into purchasing AEDs for the schools, according to Director of Schools Dallas Williams, who hopes to find money through grants. The Elizabethton City School system does have one AED according to Sherry Freeman, registered nurse with the school system.
   In November 2002, the Tennessee Department of Health received a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Rural Health Policy for $259,988 to purchase AEDs for rural emergency services.
   "Due to its proximity to a metropolitan area, only one zip code in Carter County -- 37687, Roan Mountain -- is eligible for automated defibrillator devices through the RAED grant program. The Tennessee project does not award any funding to localities, but the AEDs are purchased by the Tennessee Department of Health and issued to participating organizations.
   "Four devices will be received by the Carter County EMS which may be placed with local fire and rescue agencies and park rangers at Roan Mountain State Park," said Richard F. Land, TDH Division of Emergency Medical Services.
   For more information about donating toward the purchase of AEDs, please contact the local school systems or emergency departments.