At the Heart of Saving Lives

Many businesses are deploying AEDs with assistance from Public Access Defibrillation programs, which are becoming more prevalent.

A recent USA Today list of the 25 Top Medical Events of the past 25 years listed "The rise of the AED" at number 9: "Hundreds and perhaps thousands of cardiac arrest victims are saved each year by folks using an AED, which delivers a shock to a dying heart. The first models were sold for home use in 1986, but it was in the early 1990s when the device became so simplified with voice prompts that even children could use one to save a life." (Big Dose of Medical Change, July 16, 2007)

As this trend continues, more and more companies are integrating AED programs into their emergency plans or strengthening their existing programs, realizing that whether or not an AED is on site can mean the difference between life and death for an employee. One Frito-Lay employee is living proof.

Struck Without Warning
Carol Ann Ward received a lifesaving shock from a AED within four minutes of collapsing at her desk in the Frito-Lay Human Resources Department. "I remember very little about what happened, really only what others have told me," she said. "I vaguely remember talking with my co-worker, Sharon, as we walked into the office about 8:30 in the morning. The next thing I remember was waking up four days later in the cardiac ICU at Presbyterian Hospital [in Plano, Texas.]"

At 8:34 a.m. on July 7, 2004, Ward suffered sudden cardiac arrest. It struck without warning. She had none of the health issues that identify someone as high risk. A 25-year breast cancer survivor, she was under a cardiologist's care because her chemotherapy may have caused her irregular heartbeat. But her ECG had been steady for years, and her cardiologist was unconcerned.

Sharon yelled out, "Carol Ann is not breathing!" and raced to call security. Patrick McLaughlin, a vice president of Human Resources for Frito-Lay, ran from his office and began cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Equipped and Trained to Treat SCA
Frito-Lay Security Officers Mark Gall and Chris Wash arrived less than two minutes after receiving Sharon's call. "That morning, Chris and I were saying that whenever we get a health call, it's usually just someone with the flu or who just doesn't feel well,” Gall said. "We really didn't expect to find the VP doing CPR when we arrived."

But Frito-Lay security officers take a AED on all health calls. It's corporate health and safety policy. With their American Red Cross training in CPR with defibrillation, the officers were well prepared, and properly equipped, for Ward's crisis. "The particular AED we use walks you through everything,” said Wash. "Even though we refresh our training twice a year, the voice prompts keep you focused.  When we got to Carol Ann's side, she had no pulse and wasn't breathing. The senior VP of HR was standing over us. My heart was racing 90 miles an hour! But as soon as we opened the AED, it told us what to do."

The AED analyzed Ward's condition and determined a shock was necessary. She received her lifesaving shock from the AED within four minutes of collapsing. It then directed Gall and Wash to continue CPR until EMS arrived, which occurred two minutes later.

Why Buy AEDs?
Doctors later found that the arteries leading to Ward's heart contained four major blockages. The cardiac arrest was so severe, it is likely that EMS would have been too late. "If Frito-Lay did not have AEDs, I would not be here,” she said.

She returned to work in good health three months later and has since given talks sponsored by the American Heart Association on heart health and the importance of accessible defibrillation. Ward now has an implantable cardioverter defibrillator in her shoulder and follows all monitor procedures carefully with her doctors.

"I give a lot of credit to Frito-Lay for having the foresight to purchase AEDs for our offices. I never really thought of this as a corporate responsibility, but I understand now that it is the right thing for employees. Nothing could have gone better than what happened to me. I am working to get more businesses in the Dallas metro area to install AEDs."

Frito-Lay's AED Deployment
Frito-Lay decided to equip its security detail with AEDs because its security officers are typically first on the scene of any emergency on its large corporate campus. They are, therefore, in the best position to deliver CPR with defibrillation within a timeframe that improves a victim's likelihood of survival.

The company sought out a device that is exceptionally easy to use, reliable, and with first-rate service and support. The company selected a device with technology that measures the victim's body mass and delivers an electric shock tailored to the individual's physiology and symptoms.

Frito-Lay purchased nine AEDs, plus a demo unit for training purposes, in March 2001. Six are deployed throughout the company's Plano, Texas corporate headquarters to cover 2,500 Frito-Lay employees and an additional 1,200 employees in adjoining offices for Pepsico, Frito Lay's corporate parent. Another AED travels in its security vehicle. The remaining two units are assigned to Pepsico's corporate aviation department, where they accompany all flights.

All of the corporate security detail's 28 officers are trained, as are the company's eight pilots and five aircraft maintenance personnel. The company also supports a "Fire Brigade" that consists of 175 employees who volunteer to assist the security detail during medical emergencies. All have current First Aid and CPR credentials.  

Reaching Out to the Community
Businesses across the nation are deploying AEDs in greater numbers to protect employees and customers, especially when they serve the public. Many, like UltraStar Cinemas in San Diego, are doing this with assistance from Public Access Defibrillation programs, which are becoming more prevalent. UltraStar Cinemas, which operates theaters throughout Southern California, has installed an AED in each of its nine San Diego and Imperial Valley locations and both of its Inland Empire locations.

UltraStar has taken a step beyond protecting its employees and customers by working to educate the community. In addition to installing AEDs, the San Diego-based company in July 2007 began screening in all of its theaters a public service announcement before every film shown on its 93 screens. The PSA educate audiences on the critical role of publicly accessible defibrillation technology in increasing survival rates from Sudden Cardiac Arrest. UltraStar also has partnered with SDPH to raise money for AEDs to be purchased for community organizations.

"More than 450,000 people die from Sudden Cardiac Arrest each year in the U.S.," said Damon Rubio, an executive with UltraStar Cinemas. "With more than three million annual customers, UltraStar Cinemas wants to give its staff and its guests the best chance of surviving SCA in one of its theaters, as well as the information they need to demand accessible defibrillation in more public spaces. With the PSA, we aim to help educate the greater San Diego community about the importance of accessible, reliable, easy-to-use defibrillators to surviving a Sudden Cardiac Arrest.  AEDs ought to be as ubiquitous as fire extinguishers, and UltraStar Cinemas is committed to supporting Project Heart Beat's pursuit of this goal."

Communities Help Businesses Promote AED Access
UltraStar Cinemas developed its AED program through San Diego Project Heart Beat, a Public Access Defibrillation (PAD) programs instituted by San Diego County to educate area business, schools, agencies, and other organizations about the importance of readily accessible AEDs.

Since its inception in November 2001, San Diego Project Heart Beat has helped organizations across San Diego County deploy more than 3,400 AEDs in public places. In that time, these publicly accessible defibrillators have been used to save 43 lives. San Diego Project Heat Beat aims to increase the survivability of Sudden Cardiac Arrest throughout San Diego County by making AEDs as common as fire extinguishers in city and county buildings, tourist destinations, schools, businesses, and any public place where a life can be saved.  Since businesses, schools, government buildings, and other public places in San Diego have enrolled with Project Heart Beat and deployed AEDs, more than 75 percent of victims have survived who suffered SCA in San Diego County outside of a hospital when an AED was present. This is up from 5 percent--the national average--prior to the start of the PAD program. San Diego Project Heart Beat believes these to be among the highest SCA survival rates for any major city in the country.

More and more communities have begun instituting PAD programs to help increase the SCA survival rate in their communities. Cities such as Minneapolis and Baltimore have instituted PAD programs, and Nevada recently initiated the first statewide PAD program. These programs provide resources to businesses and other organizations to help them develop AED programs that will protect their employees and customers and save the lives of people like Carol Ann Ward.

This article originally appeared in the September 2007 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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