One thousand times per day someone somewhere in the United States has sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). Bystanders may perform CPR, but without an automated external defibrillator (AED) most die. AEDs can be used by laypersons and are proven to save lives. When you are out and about in your routine daily travels do you know the location of the nearest AED?

AEDs and SCA what do you know? T or F?

1. Without AED, about 40 percent with SCA survive.

2. Missouri requires AEDs in the workplace.

3. AEDs restore electrical rhythm.

What is sudden cardiac arrest? SCA occurs when the electrical rhythm of the heart, which regulates heart muscle contraction, suddenly becomes irregular. The victim immediately loses consciousness because there is not enough blood and oxygen being pumped to the brain. A sudden jolt of electrical current, delivered with an AED, can literally jump start the heart into a normal rhythm. CPR, which provides mechanical pumping of the heart cannot restore an organized rhythm. CPR and is not a substitute for an AED. Performed in tandem, CPR and AED is lifesaving.

When an AED is not readily available, about 10 percent with SCA survive. When a bystander immediately uses an AED, about 40 percent survive. If 40 percent survived, 100,000 people could be saved annually. EMS cannot arrive fast enough. For every minute after SCA, there is a 10 percent decrease in survival rate. There is no substitute for immediate intervention with an AED.

A “heart attack,” also called a myocardial infarction, is different from SCA. MIs occur when there is blockage of one or more arteries to the heart muscle. It is a plumbing (blood vessels) problem. SCA is an electrical problem. With MI often there are warning signs such as chest discomfort, shortness of breath and nausea. SCA typically has no warning signs.

Missouri has no laws mandating AED placement but does protect Good Samaritans using the device “in good faith.” Missouri State High School Activities Association mandates an AED be available at all activities and sporting venues. For many schools cost can prohibit placement of AEDs at every sport venue on campus.

When you read of an athlete dying suddenly during practice or competition, this is most often from SCA. So, when you are at your local ball field or gymnasium, do you make a mental note of on-site AEDs? Do it. Every coach. Every parent. Every official. There are horrifying stories about AEDs being locked in offices at schools and community athletic venues. AEDs must be at every sporting venue and readily available to the public. They must never be locked up during practices or competitions. I promise, you will never find the person with the key when you need it.

Take an inventory of AEDs during your local travels. Let's identify “hotspots” in our community where needs are greatest. Sporting venues. Community centers. Houses of worship. Let's come together to make our community more “heart safe.” Organizations may understand the need but may not have funds to purchase an AED, which typically costs between $1,000-$3,000. Let's not let finances get in the way of saving lives. Through donations and sponsorships AEDs can be purchased.

The Talmud reads, “To save one life is as if to save the world.” Would you like to serve on a community task-force? Contact me. Together we can make Eastern Jackson County a model heart safe community.

Answers: 1. F 10 percent; 2. F; 3. T

Dr. Lori Boyajian-O’Neill can be contacted at