Baby, Baby, Can’t you hear my Heartbeat?: How a defibrillator at work could save your life

Back in the 1960’s when Herman Hermits originally sang the song Baby, Baby, Can’t you hear my Heartbeat?, it was all about how love can make your heart beat in a strange (and exciting) way. That’s the wonderful side to the story of irregular heartbeats. However, there is also a more serious side.

Each year Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA), strikes many people. During SCA the heart starts beating irregularly and eventually stops beating. We may all know of someone that just “dropped dead” without any obvious signs of ill-health. In the majority of these cases the person will have no prior warning of a heart complaint. Sadly fewer than 5% of SCA victims survive. This low survival rate is in large part a result of the fact that emergency medical services cannot reach the victim in time. However, there is something very simple that any workplace can do to improve this health statistic.

In this article we take a look at what happens in Sudden Cardiac Arrest. We then explain what a heart “defibrillator” is and how having one available as part of the Office “First Aid” kit could save your LIFE or, help you to save your work colleagues life!! In fact, if you are an HR or H&S manager the evidence we present suggests that having a defibrillator at work is no brainer. Read on and see what you think…

What is sudden cardiac arrest (SCA)?

Beating Heart 1

Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA), also known as sudden cardiac death, is when the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating. When this occurs, blood stops flowing to the brain and other vital organs. It is important to note that most SCA’s happen to people who appear healthy and have no known heart disease or other risk factors for SCA.

The heart has an internal electrical system that controls the rhythm of the heartbeat. Problems with the electrical system can cause abnormal heart rhythms. SCA occurs when the electrical system of the heart short-circuits, most often causing an abnormal rhythm known as Ventricular Fibrillation. In this state the heart has the movement similar to a “wobbly jelly” and can’t get back into a normal rhythm without some outside help.

SCA is not the same thing as a heart attack. A heart attack is a problem with blocked blood flow to a part of the heart muscle. During a heart attack, the heart usually does not suddenly stop beating. SCA, may happen however during recovery from a heart attack.

With treating SCA, time is of the essence. As you can see from the chart below, if SCA is not treated within minutes, death is most often the result.

Graph survival rate with defibrillation

Ninety-five percent of people who have SCA die from it. This is because medical assistance can most often not get to the sick person quickly enough. However, rapid treatment of SCA with a defibrillator can be lifesaving.

Heart Start: What is a defibrillator and how does it work?

A defibrillator is a small electronic machine that can give a controlled electric shock to restart the heart. To explain, once the heart has had a Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) and is in a quivering uncontrollable state (Ventricular Fibrillation), a controlled electric shock to the heart can allow the heart to restart itself again. This is very much like rebooting a computer after it has frozen.

Defibrillator

An example of a modern Debrillator (image supplied by St John, New Zealand)

Can I do it? Is expert training necessary?

There are some very affordable Automated Defibrillator units available on the market, which are easy to use. Pads are placed on the casualty’s chest. These automatic devices then analyze and look for shockable heart rhythms. The defibrillator advises the rescuer of the need for defibrillation by voice prompts. It will only deliver the defibrillation shock if it is needed. As a result with minimal training it is possible for anyone to save the life of a co-worker, friend, or anyone else stricken with Sudden Cardiac Arrest.

Are defibrillators dangerous to use?

Automatic external defibrillators are extremely safe when used properly. The electric shock is programmed to go from one pad to another through the casualty’s chest. Basic precautions, such as verbally warning others to stand back and visually checking the area before and during the shock, will ensure the safety of rescuers.

But we already have staff trained in CPR?

CPR provides some circulation of oxygen rich blood to the casualty’s heart and brain. This circulation delays both brain death and the death of heart muscle. However, CPR will not restart a fibrillating heart. CPR does however buy some time until the defibrillator arrives and also makes the heart more likely to respond to defibrillation.

Conclusion – take action to purchase a defibrillator

So next time you go and check the work First Aid Kit, think about adding a Defibrillator. We believe it is a no brainer! God forbid, but it may be that your colleagues have to use it on you!! A Defibrillator is a simple, useful tool, that is becoming more and more common in workplaces, clubs and community organisations.

HeartMan

Author:

Ross Thomson, a Director of Joyworkz Ltd.

Sources:

  1. 1.US National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute
  2. 2.The NZ Health Information Service
  3. 3.The NZ Mid Central District Health Board
  4. 4.St John, Dean Kelly, Business Development Manager

Tips, training and resources

Staff training: Training for staff can motivating and help staff know that you care. Joyworkz offer a range of appropriate workplace wellness seminars such "Standing Up to Stress" and "Being a Happy Computer User" that assist staff to be healthy and happy at work. 

A wellness programme: Consider a workplace health challenge to get employees moving. If you need help getting started designing a made to measure wellness programme, consider Joyworkz SimplyWell™ package, which takes the stress out of designing a workplace wellness programme.

Visual prompts: Visual prompts in the workplace can be useful. For instance, the range of Alsco free heart health and defibrillator posters.

2012 © Joyworkz Ltd, page updated 2018. All Rights Reserved.

P.S. Do you like this article?. If so, feel free to post a link on your intranet, e-newsletter, blog, face-book page or email to your friends and colleagues. We are keen for everyone to have the opportunity to live a healthy work life!