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Vol. LXI, No. 3
February 6, 2009

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Trained and Ready
Defibrillators Used to Save Heart Attack Victims

Jeanette Black of NINDS and Kirk Druey of NIAID practice applying defibrillator pads on a mannequin
Jeanette Black of NINDS and Kirk Druey of NIAID practice applying defibrillator pads while continuing compressions on a mannequin during a training course on Jan. 21.

A small number of brave staff gave the greatest holiday gift possible—life—to two victims of cardiac arrest in December 2008. The responders’ quick action and the availability of automated external defibrillators (AEDs) helped both situations end positively.

As part of her certification to teach aerobics, Jewell Webb took a cardiopulmonary resuscitation course and learned to use an AED. She put the class material to use on Dec. 15 at the Rockledge Fitness Center when she and two other NIH employees responded to an incident of cardiac arrest. Webb, who works for NIDA, and Peggy Fitzgibbon and Heather Bridge, both of NIAID, performed compressions and gave breath to the victim while waiting for paramedics to arrive. When their efforts failed to bring on a consistent pulse, the women deployed the defibrillator to shock his heart.

“It was a life-altering experience,” said Fitzgibbon. The survivor of the arrest expressed his gratitude in an email to the three: “Thanks for saving my life!...I was very lucky to have this happen in the gym with CPR-trained people around.”

The crew at contractor Verizon’s office in the NIH Executive Blvd. location is required to be trained in CPR. When a coworker dropped to the ground on Dec. 3, Steve Elmore and Wesley Reynolds knew what to do and sprang into action. Their fellow employee returned to work recently, Elmore said.

“I felt pretty proud that I could help,” added the NIH contractor. “People think it’s a joke—why do we need this training every year? I encourage everyone to seek the training, if not through work than at a local firehouse or community center.”

Michael Dunn, AED program manager in the Division of Occupational Health and Safety, ORS, says there are 150 of the machines on campus and about 140 in off-campus locations. “We have the best automated defibrillators on the market right now,” he said. He noted, however, that some departments and divisions maintain their own defibrillators independent of his office.

Visual instructions on the units tell users where to place the pads on the chest of the person in cardiac arrest. The defibrillator automatically reads the heart rhythm of the victim, reports audibly if a shock is necessary and, if so, delivers an electric current. After another heart-rhythm reading, the machine administers a second shock, if necessary, and instructs the responder to continue with resuscitation attempts.

Even though efforts have been made to make the process user-friendly, people should still familiarize themselves with the operation of the machine before a crisis occurs, Dunn said.

The Occupational Medical Service provides classes in Bldg. 31 multiple times a week. Sign up at Dunn’s office trains on-site as requested; call (301) 451-3294 for more information. NIHRecord Icon

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