It was just a regular night at the G.W. Henderson Center. All around, people were breaking a sweat on the treadmills, weights, elipticals and track. Suddenly, a commotion arose as a patron collapsed.
On Jan. 25, North Tunica firefighter Will Townsend said a Rec Center staff member called his name as he was working out. He rushed to a small huddle of people, to find a man unresponsive.
Townsend checked for a pulse and with assistance from the crowd, began CPR. A Rec Center employee brought over an automated external defibrillator which Townsend used to assess the patient. The machine, using external electrodes, determined that a shock was needed to help put the man’s heart back in rhythm. Townsend waited as the shock was administered and CPR continued until emergency responders arrived at the facility.
The man was transported to a nearby hospital, where he is recovering.
North Tunica Fire Chief Jimmie Neal said he had been to several places locally where Townsend was commended for his efforts.
“Everyone is saying that Will really saved his life and that without Will’s help, he wouldn’t be here today,” Neal said.
Townsend, who was recently selected Firefighter of the Year, maintains he was just doing what he has been trained to do.
Part of what he has been trained to do includes using an AED, which Townsend and Neal both agree is an invaluable resource. Townsend said he learned to use one through his EMT training and that they are designed to be user friendly for those not in the medical field.
Using a practice device, Neal and Townsend demonstrated how an AED works. The machine is powered by a battery, which is enclosed in a square plastic case. Attached to the case are two thin electrode pads with illustrations showing the user where to place them on the human body. One is usually placed on the chest near the shoulder, while the other is placed on the rib cage. The machine then automatically diagnoses whether the heart is in ventricular tachycardia (beating too fast to pump blood) or ventricular fibrillation (electrical activity of the heart is sporadic). Both Neal and Townsend stress that the machine will not restart the heart if it is in asystole (not beating at all.)
Neal explained that the user can not make the machine shock a patient if it determines that a shock is not warranted. It will not administer a second shock if the first one is enough to set the heart back in regular rhythm. Neal said that the first shock is 200 joules. The second is 300. The third is 360. Some models even offer up to 400 joules.
Neal said CPR classes now include training on how to use AEDs. The instructor can program several scenarios into a practice device and the students can use the device on a manequin. Neal said that allows the exercise allow the students to think through and experience the process.
Statistics suggest that it’s a process that can significantly impact a patient’s survival rate. According to the American Heart Association, communities with comprehensive AED programs have achieved survival rates of 40 percent or higher. The AHA reports that for every minute that passes without CPR or defibrillation, the chances of survival decreases by seven to 10 percent. The AHA strongly supports the use of AEDs, starting an annual AED Awareness Week in 2007.
Lynda Erwin, executive assistant to the county administrator, said Tunica County has seen the importance of the devices.
“We are very lucky to have them and have trained employees able to handle situations that require the use of an AED,” Erwin said.
Erwin said that in 2002, the county obtained a homeland security grant which funded the purchase of seven AEDs. The following year, additional grant funds allowed for seven more to be purchased. Erwin said they are now in place in local facilities such as the county administration building, the Arena, The River Park, the Courthouse, Tunica National, the jail, the Rec Center, the Aquatic Center, Tunica Airport, Tunica Museum, the White Oak Community Center, the Dundee Community Center, the Justice Court and the Planning Commission building.