The most dramatic moment on most doctor dramedies is when the MD holds the paddles of a defibrillator against a dying patient’s chest and yells, “Clear!” But in reality, most heart attacks don’t occur under klieg lights—or in a hospital. About 80 percent of cardiac arrests occur at home.
After a sudden heart attack, every minute that passes without a victim receiving treatment decreases the person’s chances of survival by as much as 10 percent. So it’s essential that patients receive CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), defibrillation—and professional medical attention--as soon as possible. The Philips HeartStart Home Defibrillator is designed to help.
Philips recently demonstrated the product for us and showed us how the lunch box-sized device takes users carefully through the process of reviving and maintaining a patient until medical personnel arrive. The HeartStart gives spoken instructions, for example, reminding you to call 911 immediately and then takes you through the steps necessary to check the victim’s breathing and pulse. Of course, it also tells you where to place the electrode pads on the person’s chest.
Once the pads are in place, HeartStart can determine whether or not the patient needs defibrillation to jolt their heart into a regular rhythm. If a shock is needed, the HeartStart machine doesn’t yell, “Clear!” but it will instruct you to step back before pushing a button on the defibrillator to deliver the shock. Furthermore, the device tells you how to perform CPR until help arrives.
HeartStart is extremely simple to use, even in a panic, and it’s available without a prescription. However, at $1,300 it’s not a discretionary purchase. But if you live far from a hospital or own a small business—and you are not a doctor—it could help you save a life some day.
If you do decide to purchase the HeartStart, we recommend that you and your family take a course in CPR and familiarize yourself with the device’s operation.