Airport becomes safer place for heart attacks

LIHU’E — The American Heart Association of Hawai`i and Alexander & Baldwin Inc. have teamed up to increase the odds of surviving cardiac arrest on Kaua`i. The organizations have donated an automatic external defibrillator to Lihu`e Airport.

“We’re very pleased to be able to offer this life-saving device to the Kaua`i community,” said Dr. Joseph Bailey, president of the Kaua`i division of American Heart Association. Bailey noted that sudden cardiac arrest is responsible for an estimated 250,000 deaths annually in the United States—almost 700 every day).

Nationally, 95 percent of those who suffer cardiac arrest die before reaching the hospital. Strengthening “every link in the chain of survival with new lifesaving technologies” like the automatic defibrillator will save 50,000 or more lives in the U.S. each year, Bailey said.

Survival includes early access to care by dialing 9-1-1, prompt cardiopulmonary resuscitation, early defibrillation and early advanced care, such intravenous drugs administered by paramedics on the way to the hospital. “Without each of these links in place, the chance of surviving cardiac arrest falls to less than 5 percent,” Bailey said.

In contrast, communities with strong links have raised survival rates to more than 50 percent, Bailey noted. Lihu`e Airport manager Stan Sekimoto said Tuesday that as far as he knew, the new defibrillator hadn’t been used yet. He also said he didn’t know if anyone might have been saved if the defibrillator had been in place earlier. Marilyn Kali, spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation, said defibrillators at and around airports are multiplying.

“They are even putting them on airplanes. We’ve had them for a while over here” at Honolulu International Airport on Oahu, she said. Kali said Honolulu International also has a nurse on duty 24 hours a day. “We don’t have that on the neighboring islands because the (passenger) traffic isn’t as heavy,” she explained. “We have crash-fire units trained to respond to most emergencies. My guess is that they would be the ones using” the defibrillator, Kali said.

According to the heart association, technological advances in the early 1990’s resulted in defibrillators becoming smaller, more lightweight and easier to operate. They also now include audible voice prompts and self-check features, and are programmed to read the patient’s heart rhythm and only allow a shock to be administered when an abnormal rhythm is recognized.

American Heart Association of Hawai`i recently led efforts to reform the state’s law regulating defibrillator use. The new law reduces the amount of training necessary to operate the device and also provides “good samaritan” liability coverage for non-medical operators.

Staff writer Dennis Wilken can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) and dwilken@pulitzer.net Heart to heart Additional information about automatic external defibrillators or CPR training is available from the American Heart Association’s Kaua`i office at 245-7311.

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