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How to jump-start your husband's heart.

Having survived two heart attacks, Roland Huggins knew he was in a fight for his life. His two previous attacks had weakened his heart muscle and made him a prime candidate for yet another heart attack. After his doctor had advised him of the deadly statistics, it was decided that a portable home defibrillator would be prescribed for Roland. The battery-operated and computer-controlled device weighed only seven pounds, but all concerned knew that Roland would be in no position to administer the lifesaving shocks to himself should he again be stricken. His wife, Dorothy, was the key. By training Dorothy to operate the device, Roland greatly enhanced his chances of surviving an out-of-hospital attack. While vacationing in California six months later, Roland suffered his third heart attack during a roadside stop. Dorothy quickly affixed the two shock pads to Roland's chest. After one shock and less than a minute of CPR, Roland regained consciousness. Five days later, after a short stay in the hospital, Roland and Dorothy met their children in time for Christmas at Disneyland.

Let's face it-the reason most wives outlive their husbands has a lot to do with the husband's heart. Bad habits, stress, and genetics have conspired to make the male heart more vulnerable. Devices such as Roland's can help ensure that more men are not cheated out of any of the 3.5 billion heartbeats typically due them.

One name doctors give to a person's last heartbeat is "sudden cardiac death," or SCD. SCD is one of life's most dramatic medical emergencies. It claims more than 400,000 lives each year, even though approximately 70 percent of these deaths are witnessed.

Ventricular fibrillation (VF) causes most of these deaths. Two out of every three heart attacks are accomanied by VF. When VF occurs, the heart suddenly stops beating and begins to flutter uselessly. The instant this happens, the victim becomes utterly helpless and dependent on those around him. A quick call to the local Emergency Medical Service (EMS) and administering CPR are apparently not enough. Only 5 percent of persons suffering cardiac arrest outside the hospital survive. The problem is that even the best EMS takes too long in arriving. (Ten- to 14-minute response times are not uncommon.) During this wait, even perfectly administered CPR (though certainly imperative) does nothing to return the heart to a normal beat. That is because CPR does not defibrillate hearts, electricity does!

Applying electric shock to the heart to return it to normal beating is called defibrillation. We've all seen it done (usually successfully) on TV hospital dramas. For once, television is true to fife. Studies show that cardiac-arrest victims defibrillated within the first 3 to 5 minutes have a 70 percent chance of survival. Recently, portable defibrillator units have been successfully used by some emergency-response services in saving lives outside the hospital. Twenty-eight percent of those defibrillated after 14 minutes survive. Although heroic, this success rate is still low compared to the better than 70 percent survival rate achieved inside hospitals.

To save more lives, therefore, the FDA has approved a special type of defibrillator for home use. The equipment was endorsed by the American Heart Association in 1986. The difference between the home and the hospital units is that the home units are completely automatic. A carefully tested computer within the device decides if, when, how often, and how much electrical shock is needed. The computer's decision in each case is based on what it senses through the two pads placed on the patient's chest. Thus, turning on the machine and quickly placing the pads on the patient's chest is half thebattle. The other half consists of not panicking, remembering to cat the EMS before all else, and following the machine's instructions on when to apply CPR. (It is also important to listen to the machine when it instructs you to stand back while the shock is being applied.)

The HEART*AID 1000 ($4,995), made by Cardiac Resuscitator Corporation in Portland, Oregon, actually gives spoken instructions throughout the entire process. It also taperecords all aspects of the heart's rhythm before, during, and after being shocked. This, along with a voice recording, helps doctors reconstruct what happened during the attack.

Tests have shown that when properly trained, even youngsters can be counted on to administer automatic defibrillation to parents or grandparents. The concern that loved ones would be too panic-stricken to act has been largely disproved. Combined with certain lifestyle changes, home defibrillation can help extend the lives of many at high risk of suffering cardiac arrest.

If you would like to know more about home defibrillation, please write to: The Saturday Evening Post Society, Home Defibrillation, P .0. Box 567, Indianapolis, IN 46206.

All members of the Saturday Evening Post Society who have obtained prescriptions from their doctors qualify for a 15 percent discount on the CRC machine described above.
COPYRIGHT 1988 Saturday Evening Post Society
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1988 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:SerVaas, Paul
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Apr 1, 1988
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