Lee Health doctor shows how AEDs save lives when cardiac arrest strikes

Reporter: Amy Oshier Writer: Joey Pellegrino
Published: Updated:

More than a week after Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest during Monday night football, he has been discharged from the hospital in buffalo after undergoing plenty of tests. As Hamlin continues to improve, the miraculous recovery is shining a spotlight on automated external defibrillators, handy pieces of equipment that save lives every day.

We’ve all seen defibrillators hanging on the walls of schools, gyms and businesses, but chances are you’ve never used one. Doing so is easier than it looks. Used in tandem with CPR on someone who’s suspected of having a sudden cardiac arrest, an AED can save a life. A user-friendly machine, it does the thinking for you; simply turn it on and follow the directions.

The AED delivers an electrical shock if the heart needs jump-starting; it can also restore heart rhythm, potentially bringing a patient back from the brink of death.

Dr. Iahn Gonsenhauser, chief medical officer at Lee Health, took WINK News into Lee Health’s simulation lab to show how it works.

“It’s an electrical shock that’s delivered from the unit to the patient, and one of the great things about AEDs is it can monitor the patient, and it only delivers a shock if it’s necessary,” Gonsenhauser said.

In an emergency, the most important thing you need to know is where an AED is located. Florida requires them in many public spaces, including parks and schools; they’re commonly found at gyms, stores and businesses, too, because a cardiac crisis can happen anywhere.

“AEDs are critical for responding as quickly as possible when a cardiac arrest occurs,” Gonsenhauser said. “They’re prevalent all over public spaces, and they’re probably not used as frequently as they should be.”

People may be too intimidated to use one. But Gonsenhauser assures us that it is simple.

“This really, as you saw, only takes a few moments,” Gonsenhauser said. “Takes about as long as it takes to listen to the instructions, get the pads placed, and then the machine will do the work pretty quickly.”

An estimated 1,700 lives in the U.S. are saved annually with AEDs.

“I’d say this is probably the biggest game-changer in emergency response since the creation of CPR,” Gonsenhauser said.

Remember: The AED can only deliver a life-saving shock if it’s working. The machine needs regular maintenance and testing.

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