Save a Life – Learn to Use a Defibrillator

A defibrillator has been installed in my area and I went to a session run by Community Heartbeat on how to use it. A patient’s survival rate following a cardiac arrest is much improved by the use of a defibrillator rather than just CPR (from around 7% to 28% if I remember correctly) so it’s great that increasing numbers of these machines are appearing in public spaces.

Use of Defibrillator

If Someone Collapses Follow These Instructions

The important takeaways from the session were:

  • Unless you hit them over the head with it, you can’t hurt anyone with a defibrillator – the machines are programmed to only deliver a shock when/if one is needed.
  • A defibrillator applies a current of electricity to the heart to stop it and thus allow it to reconfigure automatically. Our instructor said it was a little bit like rebooting a laptop when the screen has locked up.
  • The defibrillator gives audible instructions on what you are required to do.
  • When you dial 999 you will be told where the nearest defibrillator is and the code number to access it
  • If the nearest defibrillator is too far away and you are alone, you will be talked through performing CPR only. If you are not alone, one person will start CPR whilst the other fetches the defibrillator.
  • When the defibrillator arrives, one person should continue with CPR while the other sets everything up.
  • There are scissors and a razor in the defibrillator pack. This allows you to cut the patient’s clothing (including the bra on a woman) in order to bare the chest. The razor is for shaving a square of skin on a hairy chest. The pads through which the shock is delivered won’t stick to very hairy skin.
  • CPR must be continued in between allowing the defibrillator to monitor and possibly shock the patient. Give 30 compressions at a rate of 100-120 per minute followed by two breaths. You will need to press hard with two hands on an adult patient and you may break one of their ribs. I would prefer someone to break my rib but save my life rather than leave me to die with ribs intact.
  • The defibrillator will tell you when to stop touching the patient so that the machine can monitor the heart.
  • Do not stop CPR when you see the ambulance. The paramedics will always say, “You’re doing a great job. Keep going.” This is because they need a minute to set up and therefore need you to keep going just a little longer.
  • You may or may not find out what eventually happens to the patient. Do not be disheartened if he dies. It does not mean you did anything wrong – look again at the survival percentages at the top of this post.

Every life is precious and deserves saving. Don’t walk by on the other side because you’re afraid of getting involved.

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  1. #1 by Coffeeeandcream on March 27, 2019 - 7:56 am

    Great and very informative post, it’s really important to know how these work!

    • #2 by Sally Jenkins on March 27, 2019 - 6:33 pm

      And anyone can use them because you are talked through what to do.

  2. #3 by juliathorley on March 27, 2019 - 8:42 am

    I was shown how to use a defib machine on the last first aid course I did. I hope I never need to, but I think I probably could, if I had to. It’s pretty idiot proof.I always check where the nearest one is if I’m teaching at a new venue.

    • #4 by Sally Jenkins on March 27, 2019 - 6:35 pm

      What a good idea to check for the nearest one, Julia. But I hope that your yoga classes are relaxing rather than cardiac arrest inducing!

  3. #5 by lynnforthauthor on March 27, 2019 - 11:11 am

    Brilliant summary, Sally. I went to session as well, despite being very nervous of anything medical. It’s so reassuring to know that anything positive you do increases the chances of survival.

    • #6 by Sally Jenkins on March 27, 2019 - 6:34 pm

      Exactly, Lynn. It’s not as scary as you think.

  4. #7 by Shirley Stow on March 28, 2019 - 11:16 am

    What a super idea to put this on line. I have been to a session to learn how to use a defibrillator at the bowling club.

    It was good to read again what we should do in such a scary situation.

    Thank you.

    • #8 by Sally Jenkins on March 28, 2019 - 2:04 pm

      Hopefully the training makes it a little less scary, Shirley. But I still hope I won’t find myself in the situation of having to use it!

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