With cameras rolling and millions of football fans watching, Buffalo Bills player Damar Hamlin collapsed on the floor after a hit and was heartbroken.
Cameras also captured moments of medical magic as medical teams rushed to help him use an AED and start CPR.
These actions in the first minutes and seconds save the life of a professional athlete.
Today, Hamlin is recovering while the rest of us are learning about advances in medical technology and how they can save lives.
AEDs, or automated external defibrillators, have become ubiquitous. They are in offices, gymnasiums, schools, shopping malls and any place where people gather. And for good reason: AEDs are easy to use, and they work quickly in critical moments to restore heart rhythm.
“I want to make it clear for anyone who’s falling, CPR should be done whether you’ve taken a CPR class or not,” said Daniel Ingalls, a paramedic and CPR instructor. He works for Pend Oreille Paramedics, an independent Newport paramedics station, and teaches first-aid-CPR classes in Spokane for Providence.
“Basically, someone is putting on the AED pads while you’re doing CPR,” he said. “The AED is very easy to use; it has pictures on it to help you locate the boards, and it has voice cues to help you figure out what to do.”
AED voice prompts include things like moving back and staying clear, if and when an AED emergency is necessary. Or the engineer will say, “No emergency.”
“The AED analyzes the heartbeat for a potentially fatal and sudden cardiac arrest, so it’s important to get defibrillation as soon as possible,” Ingalls said.
In Spokane, bystanders need to know where the nearest AED is and what to do, but the machine and many 911 dispatchers provide the steps, he said.
An app called PulsePoint, designed for people with CPR training, offers a detailed map of AED locations in the Spokane area. It tells users if a heart attack is imminent, so they can get help. The app is well-planned for local AEDs, based on free deliveries, he said.
Call 911 and begin CPR first
“You can knock and scream and say, ‘Can you hear me?’ just to see if it’s a normal response,” Ingalls said. “Call 911 and start a positive response. At least 2 inches deep at a rate of 100 to 120 strokes per minute.
Allow the breast to rebound, he says, meaning pushing in with compressions that move blood around the body, delivering oxygen and nutrients to the brain, and then allow the breast to rise. more, let the blood return to the heart.
In summary, “Good songs to think about are ‘Staying Alive,’ by the Bee Gees, or if you’re a kid, ‘Baby Shark,'” says Ingalls.
He said anyone can start CPR, even without strength. “Doing something is better than nothing, so doing and starting CPR is better than doing nothing.”
Understand why AEDs are important
Although AEDs are available in many public places, one common misconception is that only medical professionals can use one if someone collapses.
But anyone can use an AED, said Valerie Koch, a spokeswoman for the local heart team.
Receiving immediate CPR and an electric shock from a defibrillator are the main life-saving agents for the 350,000 US adults who go into cardiac arrest outside the hospital each year, according to the AHA.
Paramedics administer CPR about 40% of the time with AEDs even less, it said. About 1 in 10 people with cardiac arrest in the general population receive this type of help.
Spokane Public Schools has at least one AED at all 56 SPS school sites, and a first responder team in each building, spokesman Ryan Lancaster said. Schools conduct AED training at least once a year. Many school staff members receive CPR and AED training throughout the year.
The same is true for the Central Valley School District, said Brian Asmus, director of safety and security. Larger high schools have more AEDs. Local campus property officers carry them, and in the community, many police and first responders carry them, he said.
“It’s more expensive now,” Asmus said. “You will see other AEDs. In the city of Liberty Lake, they are in the city center. It is good to have knowledge if you are in public places to know where they are, to know how to use them knowledge is not difficult to use.”
It’s also good to have a maintenance schedule. CVSD resource officers annually check the machine’s AED batteries and electrical panels to ensure they are not depleted, he said.
Know the basics of an AED
First, take the AED out of the cabinet or bag, open the package and turn on the machine, Ingalls said.
Other topics include:
- Attach the adhesive pads to the patient’s skin as indicated in the pictures, following the pictures of the area going on the box. “One important thing for the layman is to make sure you’re putting those pads on bare skin, so you want the box to be visible,” Ingalls said.
- Wait for the device to read the heart rate and charge it if a shock is needed. Be ready, and if an abnormal heartbeat is detected, the voice prompts you to push the emergency button.
- Be aware of when to stop chest compressions – when the device is reading the patient’s heart rate and when delivering the shock.
The AED prompts, such as “Apply pads, connect,” “Cardiac arrest,” “Shock advised,” or “Not advised.” If the emergency is recommended, tell everyone to get back from the patient and press the button, he said, and the machine will announce that the shock will be released.
“Then, after the shock is released, we will go back to good quality box discs.”
Don’t worry you will get worse
“That and the Damar Hamlin accident — and I’m glad he’s doing better — but it opened a lot of people’s eyes,” Ingalls said. “So, it’s about getting the community involved and trying to get as many people together as we can to get in there and start doing CPR for cardiac arrests.”
EMS professionals get to the scene quickly, but those seconds and minutes matter, he said.
“The sooner these things start, the more you improve a person’s ability to live and enjoy life,” he said. “There’s a reason there’s a lot of this information about people who start CPR and get an AED, and then these patients have a good outcome.”
You can’t be bothered
Washington state has a good Samaritan law, he said. If bystanders stop by to help, they are protected from liability. However, taking a first-aid-CPR class can help people gain confidence, he said. The AHA, Providence and other organizations offer regular classes.