12/03/2012 06:10 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2013

Learn to Use an AED: The Gift of Life

Thrilled to be on her way to visit a close friend, Jennie made her way through the hotel lobby. Her friend loved flowers, so she decided to ask the concierge if there was a florist nearby. That was her last memory. Hours later, she regained consciousness at a nearby hospital where she relayed her story to me. Jennie had suffered a cardiac arrest. Fortunately, a bystander saw her collapse and revived her heart using an AED (automated external defibrillator) -- those small, laptop-sized devices that now grace the corridors of many public buildings.

We've all been in public buildings and walked by the signs indicating where automated defibrillators are located. But did you know that they are simple to use and, perhaps more importantly, that they are specifically designed to be used by the general public? Previously, if someone had a cardiac arrest, witnesses could only provide limited help by calling 911 and performing CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). Using an AED doubles the chances of surviving a cardiac arrest and significantly decreases the risk of brain damage. AEDs can be safely used by people without medical training to deliver a shock that restores a normal heartbeat before medical personnel arrive on the scene.[1]

Jennie made a perfect recovery without any injury to her brain because blood flow was restored so quickly. Of all the cells in the body, brain cells are the most fragile and begin dying off after just a few minutes without oxygen. That's why in neurology, we say, "Time is brain." The sooner blood flow is restored, the better the brain outcome.

If it wasn't for that bystander's quick response, Jennie may not have been so lucky. Too often, I see patients who are not so fortunate. By watching this short video, you will see how easy it is to use a defibrillator. You never know when you may be called upon to save a loved one or a stranger. And by passing this on to others, you will be sharing the most precious gift of all: the gift of life.

Have a Beautiful Brain Day!


[1]. Weisfeldt ML, Sitlani CM, Ornato JP, et al. "Survival after application of automatic external defibrillators before arrival of the emergency medical system: Evaluation in the Resuscitation Outcomes Consortium population of 21 million." J Am Coll Cardiol 2010; 55:1713-1720.

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