As Defibrillator Awareness Month draws to a close on October 31, St John Ambulance NSW has issued a reminder on the importance of knowing how to perform CPR and operate a defibrillator.
With the moniker Shocktober, the month-long campaign aims to raise awareness in the community about the importance of having access to, and knowing how to use, defibrillators.
Kerry Robins of Copacabana knows only too well how defibrillators can save lives.
A registered nurse of 45 years, Robins has been a volunteer area manager for St John’s, managing divisions all over the Central Coast and up to Newcastle, for the past 13 years.
“I have seen defibrillators used multiple times – and I’ve seen them work,” Robins said.
“We absolutely could have seen tragedies many times if we didn’t have these machines readily available.
“Every minute without a defibrillator shortens a patient’s chance of survival.
“It is important to know your CPR, but having a defibrillator is the most important thing.”
While all St John’s vehicles are equipped with the life saving machines, Robins would like to see more defibs readily available in the community.
“I can’t see any reason why all shopping centres don’t have them,” she said.
“It is very important to see more of them made available all over the Coast and they are so easy to use – I could teach a five-year-old how to do it.
“All machines carry easy-to-follow instructions under the lid.”
Robins recounts an incident last New Year’s Eve where a man attending a house party fell from a veranda at Bateau Bay, hitting his head and going into cardiac arrest.
Luckily John McClement, from St John Ambulance’s Tuggerah Lakes Combined Division, was on hand and able to organise other guests to perform CPR while he collected a defibrillator which he had in his car from a duty the night before.
The patient was successfully revived.
Robins said this was just one incident where a defib had been life-saving.
She said members from the Coastal Waters Combined division of St John’s, based at Narara, travelled all over the state last bushfire season to provide first aid to the evacuees.
St John Ambulance NSW CEO, Sarah Lance, said sudden cardiac arrest was the leading cause of death in Australia, experienced by around 20,000 people out of hospital each year, with an alarmingly low 10% survival rate.
“In the event of a cardiac arrest, each minute that passes without intervention – including defibrillation – reduces the chance of survival,” Lance said.
“The combination of CPR and defibrillation is the only definitive treatment for sudden cardiac arrest and can increase survival rates by up to 70%.”
“We should see defibrillators in any areas where large crowds congregate- whether that’s in shopping centres, sporting grounds, concert halls, and even public transport.
“They need to be within three minutes’ reach of any sudden cardiac arrest.”