Tuesday, September 9, 2008

How Much is Your Life Worth ?

This weeks blog is rather a sober one. A week ago Gerhard was involved in a resuscitation of a fellow instructor who suffered what appeared to be a massive heart attack. For those of you who do not know, Gerhard is an active paramedic, so the instructor was in good hands. The resuscitation was not successful and we lost a fellow instructor. We would like to send our sympathies to his family and friends as well as the divers who were there with him at the time.
The incident did drive one thing home for both Gerhard and myself - how unprepared we are as divers for a medical emergency. You see, there is a device especially designed for lay people to use to restart a person’s heart. The site did not have one. No-one on site had one and it took the paramedics around 20 minutes to arrive on the scene with one. It is called an AED and it costs R16,500. My question to you all is, when some-one you love or even just know dies, would you not be prepared to pay that price to get them back ? I know I would!
We are now trying to get the diving community involved in ensuring that all dive sites (starting with the inland sites) have an AED on site. You do not need to be a paramedic to use it, that is the point. As a diver it will take only 3 hours to learn on the DAN AED course. Me thinks it is time the diving community got involved and started to look after its own, rather than waiting for the government or some gracious donor to do it for us. So please watch this space. We are putting together a fund driving initiative with Underwater Africa, DAN, Scubapro and Submerge to raise funds to get one of these at Miracle, Bass and Wondergat. If you are interested in finding out more or becoming involved/ donating to the cause please e-mail me at verna@liquidlearning.co.za.

For those of you who are still undecided - here are some sobering facts from Gerhard:

Cardiac arrest is the most common way for divers to die. The most immediate "rhythm" post cardiac arrest is 90% of the time "ventricular fibrillation". The ONLY medicine for it is to defibrillate the patient. In CPR the only real purpose is to help maintain oxygenated blood to the brain to try and keep it alive in anticipation of a defibrillator becoming available. You have to use a defib to cure the patient.
The effect of delaying defibrillation is significant as a positive outcome is DECREASED by approx 7-10% plus for every minute lost. So every minute that passes on cpr we loose approx 10% viability… and that is with PROPER CPR in progress.
What is proper CPR ? Well even paramedics battle to get this to the level’ proper’. Properly performed, CPR has an approx positive bloodflow result of 8-12% in patients. So we are basically 8-12% as effective in moving oxygenated blood around the body as the heart is. Not a great number but very effective in maintaining oxygen to the vital organs. Here is the thing though, a rescue diver’s chances of giving ‘proper’ CPR are not good. In fact, most paramedics arriving at a scene where a patient is being resuscitated do not hold out much hope of a successful outcome (it is not a nice thing to say, but it is the reality, why rush ? the patient hardly ever recovers in these instances). A patient’s best chance is if he has a witnessed arrest (which is what happened in this case) as he then receives immediate professional attention. But without a defib or AED the chances decline rapidly.
The AED or Auto External Defibrillator was designed specifically for laymen where professional help is not immediately available and the patient has suffered a heart attack. The AED can identify some "shock able" rhythms and apply the necessary steps with voice guidance to the operator. It has been used extensively in the US on airports in a massive campaign and they are claiming very good survival rates. It is a course that almost any DAN instructor can do. The AED is virtually "Idiot proof" and has VERY low maintenance - the battery is non rechargeable (in some units) with a shelf life of 4-5 years and an operating time of roughly 50 shocks or 20 plus hours. Once the unit is used, the battery can be replaced at around R300. It comes with single use pads and a bag.
Personally, I am getting one for myself…for my family, for weekends away! We are already carrying Gerhard’s crash bag every where we go! So please, please, please, join us and get involved! Every diver makes a difference.

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