By Mitch Traphagen (firstname.lastname@example.org)
SUN CITY CENTER - Just thinking about the feeling of helplessness is almost painful. A loved one has suffered a heart attack and seconds, literally seconds count.
A frantic call to 911 often results in a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Deputy being the first to arrive at the scene. The deputies are already out on the street, an advantage that the rescue squad does not have.
Imagine the feeling of helplessness seeing help arrive in a patrol car but realizing that little can be done for your stricken spouse. Imagine the feeling of helplessness on the part of the deputy, a man or woman who has sworn to protect and serve.
It is almost too much to imagine watching someone die and not being able to do something about it.
Seconds matter and while CPR can keep blood flowing, it typically will not start a heart that has stopped. With each minute that passes, the chances for survival decrease by 10 percent.
The feeling of helplessness is almost palatable, even as the imagination adds the wail of the approaching rescue squad siren.
Unfortunately this scenario requires little imagination. It is a scene that is often repeated. Nearly 250,000 Americans die from cardiac arrest each year, the majority of them in their own homes.
But it doesn’t have to happen that way. The numbers can be reduced, the chances of survival can be increased.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office has teamed up with Albertson’s Florida Grocery Stores and the American Heart Association to do something to save the victims of cardiac arrest.
Those organizations have developed a promotion to equip HCSO patrol cars with Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs).
The compact defibrillators are not cheap. To raise the necessary funds, shoppers can purchase paper hearts for one dollar at all Albertson’s grocery stores throughout Florida. The goal is to sell 100,000 paper hearts.
Currently, only five percent of cardiac arrest victims survive. According to the American Heart Association, if CPR and defibrillation are more readily available, 50,000 lives could be saved nationwide.
As the name suggests, the automated defibrillators are able to monitor the condition of the victim and administer a shock to restore a normal heartbeat if necessary. The device will not produce a shock if it detects a normal heartbeat.
The devices are highly automated, they even include voice instruction to the user. Additionally, HCSO deputies are trained in their use.
"This is an important opportunity for Floridians," said HCSO Chief Deputy David Gee. "We have the chance to come together as a community to save lives. This program will enable us to equip all emergency first responders with AEDs as well as provide CPR and AED training to the public."
"We are thrilled to be able to participate in a promotion that will save lives in our community," said Albertson’s Florida Division President Larry Wahlstrom. "We invite the public to join us during this time, whether a loved one has been effected by heart disease or you just want to support the fight against heart disease."
"The American Heart Association is proud to be able to partner with Albertson’s, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and the public to make a difference in the lives of cardiac victims," added Barry Bennett, chairman of the American Heart Association Florida/Puerto Rico.
Portable defibrillators are beginning to appear in many public places including airports and shopping malls. Recently they are also being allowed into homes on a prescription basis.
Health professionals are concerned, however, about the home use of defibrillators by family members in a panic situation. Professionals are also concerned about the level of training required to use the device.
As stated by Chief Deputy Gee, the Albertson’s promotion places emphasis not only on the purchase of the devices, but also on training for both emergency workers and for the public. Additionally, the American Heart Association offers a variety of CPR and AED training courses.
In Florida alone, nearly 13,000 people suffer cardiac arrest - nearly 95 percent of those people die as a result. Quickly administering CPR will double the chances of survival. If defibrillation can be performed in the first one to three minutes, however, there is a 70 to 80 percent chance of survival.
Those numbers sound good to those sworn to protect and to serve.
The paper hearts may be purchased at any Albertson’s grocery store, including the location on Bloomingdale Avenue in Riverview.
For thousands of Floridians, this is a promotion that may mean the difference between life and death. For the loved ones and the deputies, it means they no longer have to stand by helplessly while someone dies.
The simple purchase of a one dollar paper heart can give them the tools they need to save lives.
Further information about this promotion is available by calling the American Heart Association at 727-570-8809. Information about CPR and AED training courses is available by calling 877-AHA-4CPR or by visiting www.americanheart.org.