More schools getting device to treat cardiac arrest
When 17-year-old Cienega sophomore football player Emilio Martinez collapsed in a weight training class Monday at the Vail high school, Deana Schneider wasn’t thinking about budget cuts.
The quick response of the 28-year-old athletic trainer, and a recently-purchased automated external defibrillator, saved the teen’s life when valves in his heart began to malfunction, causing him to faint and go into cardiac arrest.
“Without that (device) and without her there, the doctors said my son would have probably died,” said Phil Martinez. “. . . I can’t tell you how grateful my wife and I are that they were there and handling the situation the way they did.
“That AED? It’s already paid for itself. Every (school) better have one. Even if they never need it, they better have one.”
Martinez, a 5-foot-6, 160-pound running back, will undergo surgery Thursday at University Medical Center. Doctors on Wednesday diagnosed him with ventricular fibrillation.
Lifesaver not expensive
At the urging of Schneider, Cienega purchased the Cardiac Science Power Heart G3 device for $1,500 in July 2008.
Even as schools and districts across the country, including Cienega, shave budgets, assistant principal and head football coach Nemer Hassey said the school will buy two more defibrillators to place around campus before the 2009-10 school year begins.
“It’s a no-brainer,” Hassey said. “You do more fundraisers or find other areas to work around. But cutting back on stuff like this, things that are about safety, you can’t cut corners on that.”
Of the 26 Class 4A and 5A schools competing in southern Arizona, at least three – Flowing Wells, Canyon del Oro and Amphi – do not have defibrillators on campus.
Flowing Wells Athletic Director Pat Weber said in an e-mail Wednesday the school has “put in for several for the next school year.”
Some schools have multiple defibrillators, including Nogales High, which has six.
Sahuaro Athletic Director Sandy Novak said her school’s lone device was bought through the Sahuaro Cougar Foundation and personal donations.
Tucson High Assistant Principal Herman House said his school, with the largest enrollment in southern Arizona, has two of the devices – one purchased by the school, the other donated after the school hosted a community heart screening event two years ago.
“These are things you hope you never have to use,” Schneider said, “but why risk not having one ready to go if something does happen?”
Workout seemed routine
Martinez had just wrapped up his daily workout in his advanced weights class Monday afternoon.
Physical education teacher Jay Johnson, an assistant Cienega football coach, saw Martinez faint, hit his chin on a weight bench barbell as he collapsed and drop to the floor unconscious.
Johnson is trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation, as are all of Cienega’s coaches. He began attending to Martinez as a student ran to get Schneider.
“When I got there, I immediately assessed the situation and knew right away we needed the AED,” Schneider said.
She has two degrees, has been CPR and first-aid certified since 2000 and has been Cienega’s athletic trainer for two school years.
“I’ve never actually had to use an AED or even do CPR before,” she said. “I’m trained for both, but never have actually been in a situation where I had to do it. It was sort of an out-of-body experience. I guess the training just took over and I was just doing what I knew to do to help him.”
Device a snap to use
The defibrillator Schneider used Monday is not hard to use.
The Power Heart G3 has voice commands that automatically play upon the device being opened. Once adhesive electrode pads are placed on the person being treated, the device monitors the heart rate and other vital signs and determines whether a shock is necessary.
Some devices automatically administer an electric shock. Others, like the one used on Martinez, require a person to push a button.
The defibrillator Schneider used also has internal memory capabilities.
“When we were done,” Schneider said, “I plugged this into my computer and it gave the paramedics and doctors a printout of everything that happened from the time I opened the AED to the time I closed it, including all his heart rates and any other info.”
Gridiron dreams end
Martinez, a seemingly healthy athlete in a family with no history of heart conditions, has been at University Medical Center since the collapse, frequently visited by friends and family members.
His football playing days are essentially over.
The American Heart Association says his condition essentially forces the heart to pump little or no blood when its lower chambers begin operating irregularly.
“The ventricles ‘flutter’ rather than beat,” according to the association’s Web site.
The electric shock from the defibrillator allowed Martinez to survive long enough for paramedics from the Rincon Valley Fire Department to arrive and take over before he was airlifted to UMC.
Martinez will undergo surgery Thursday to implant what is essentially a portable automated defibrillator in his chest, Phil Martinez said.
“It is designed to monitor when those lower chambers stop working right,” he said. “When they see that happening, it will automatically send out an electric shock.”
Phil Martinez said he and his wife – the parents of four, with Emilio the youngest – couldn’t help but think of what might have been.
“This just came out of nowhere” the father said. “Right now, we just can’t say how grateful we are to the school, to Deana and Jay, and to everyone that helped keep him alive.”
Automated external defibrillator
An automated external defibrillator is a portable device used to restore normal heart rhythm to patients in cardiac arrest.
An AED is applied outside the body. It automatically analyzes the patient’s heart rhythm and advises the rescuer whether or not a shock is needed to restore a normal heartbeat. If the patient’s heart resumes beating normally, the heart has been defibrillated.
An AED is used to treat cardiac arrest. It is a lifesaving device because cardiac arrest is a sudden condition that is fatal if not treated within a few minutes.
Heart attacks and other conditions can cause ventricular fibrillation. In ventricular fibrillation, the electrical signals in the lower part of the heart are uncoordinated and ineffective. Very little blood is pumped from the heart to the body or the lungs. If ventricular fibrillation is not treated, it will result in cardiac arrest.
Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration
How to operate it
• Regardless of which brand of AED is used, the only knowledge required to operate it is to press the “ON” button.
• Once the AED is turned on, it actually speaks to you in a computer-generated voice that guides you through the rest of the procedure.
• You will be prompted to place a set of adhesive electrode pads on the victim’s bare chest and, if necessary, to plug in the pads’ connector to the AED.
• The AED will then begin to automatically analyze the person’s ECG rhythm to determine if a shock is required. It is critical that no contact be made with the person while the machine is analyzing the ECG. If the person is touched or disturbed, the ECG may not be accurate.
• If the machine determines that a shock is indicated, it will automatically charge itself and tell you when to press the button that will deliver the shock.
• Once the shock is delivered you will be prompted to resume CPR.