AUSTIN — They're life-saving tools found on the walls of businesses and buildings around the country, but they often go unnoticed: Automated external defibrillators.
More commonly known as AEDs, state law requires them to be inside your child's school. That's why Austin area doctors are encouraging more students to educate themselves on how to properly use them in the event of an emergency.
The life-saving devices are typically needed when someone collapses and is completely unresponsive. When the pads are applied to someone's chest, the machine will detect whether or not that person's heart rate is irregular and in dire need of shock. The machine will not emit a shock if that person's heart rate is at a normal rhythm.
With hundreds of athletes now back out on the field and court, there's an increased risk of sudden cardiac arrest or other heart-related injuries, especially in the heat. That's why in addition to several teachers and faculty across all Austin Independent School District campuses, anyone who is a coach or in P.E. is trained in CPR and AED use.
"Part of our essential training for staff at the beginning of the year has to do with AEDs -- where they're located and how to use them," said Loree LaChance, director of AISD School Health Services for Seton Healthcare. "It's important to know that they're there, there are courses out there for anyone to learn CPR and how to use an AED and I encourage everyone to take that opportunity because they might be somebody who could save a life."
LaChance explained that there are at least two AEDs in every middle and high school, and at least one in elementary schools (although some of the larger campuses may have more). Every AISD police department unit also has one. The campus with the most AEDs is Bowie High School, which has six located throughout the building.
This school year, doctors such as David Kessler, an electrophysiologist with Heart Hospital of Austin, hope to see more students equipped with the knowledge and confidence of grabbing an AED if needed, and also knowing where they're located on their campus.
"It wouldn't be a bad idea for schools to actually show students to open up an AED, show them the different parts of it. Walk through the instructions and doing that once or twice a year is not a bad idea, just like we do fire drills," said Dr. Kessler. "Like a fire extinguisher, if you don't know where it is, it's not going to be useful."
For those who have never had to use a defibrillator, both LaChance and Kessler want to point out that it is safe for both the patient and the person administering the treatment, and that the shock is not something for them to worry about. Once the box is opened, there are audio instructions that walk the person through the process step-by-step so that there is no second guessing on what to do next.
"They do talk you through every piece so, once it tells you to put the pads on and to clear the area so it can analyze it, it will tell you whether or not you need to shock or whether you need to continue CPR," said LaChance.
"It's simple, it's effective and it's dummy-proof. And it's effortless to have it but you have to know where it is," said Dr. Kessler.