Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Near-Death Scare Shows Need for Lifesaving Tool

By Angelique S. Chengelis - The Detroit News
November 23, 2005

DETROIT-- Red Wings defenseman Jiri Fischer likely would not have survived Monday night without the immediate use of an automated external defibrillator.

A defibrillator, now found in most airplanes, airports, sporting arenas, universities, shopping malls and health clubs, is a computerized medical device that checks a person's heart rhythm and determines whether an electrical shock -- defibrillation -- is needed.

The procedure temporarily stops all electrical activity to let the heart's own natural pacemaker restart in a regular pattern.

Fischer collapsed because of an unexplained, life-threatening heart arrhythmia during a game against Nashville. He immediately was attended to by team trainers and team physician Dr. Tony Colucci. Colucci initiated chest compressions, and a defibrillator was placed on Fischer's chest to shock the heart.

"That is one of the crucial things I want to come out of this, that … (a) monitor should be in every public place," Colucci said. "It should be in any arena, period. Football, baseball, hockey, anywhere there is athletics at a much-peaked level. These are lifesaving machines that should be in every arena, every sports facility throughout the country."

Fischer was revived and transported to Detroit Receiving Hospital, where he will undergo further tests.

"If you don't have those (the chest compressions and defibrillator), you have a different outcome," Colucci said at a news conference Tuesday at Joe Louis Arena.

"That helped and aided in bringing Mr. Jiri Fischer back to a normal sinus rhythm. That was very critical. Again, the message out there is basic CPR and the … monitor and the quick response."

Colucci said a defibrillator is a lifesaving device that can easily be used by anyone. A defibrillator is portable, weighs about 5 pounds and costs about $1,500, nearly half what it cost seven years ago.

"It's fairly simple," Colucci said of the use of a defibrillator. "I had a discussion (Tuesday) morning with my children, telling them how easy it is. You place it on the chest, and basically the machine evaluates the cardiac situation and rhythm, and it tells you exactly what to do."

In September 2004, the Food and Drug Administration approved over-the-counter sales of automatic external defibrillators designed specifically for consumers.

The machine comes with advice for potential users to get some training and is not a substitute for paramedics -- people are supposed to call 911 before grabbing the defibrillator.

Troy attorney Randy Gillary is working to make certain all Michigan high schools have a defibrillator. Gillary and his wife, Susan, started the Kimberly Anne Gillary Foundation in 2000 after their 15-year-old daughter died during a Troy Athens water polo match at Birmingham Groves.

Kimberly Gillary received CPR from a cardiac nurse at the match, but a defibrillator was not available. She was unable to be revived.

To honor their daughter, the Gillarys raise money to purchase defibrillators for high schools. Since 2000, the Gillarys have supplied 300, and there are 127 schools on the waiting list. The first school that received a defibrillator from the foundation was Groves.

The foundation donates the defibrillator and pay for training for up to five staff members.

"We try to focus on the positive," Randy Gillary said. "Our goal is to help other high school children."

A defibrillator was used Monday at Howell High School when Mackenzie Watts, a sophomore and member of the Howell High School varsity swim team, suffered a seizure at the school district's aquatic center.

Emergency crews responded within five minutes, says Chuck Breiner, superintendent of Howell Public Schools. Paramedics administered the defibrillator before transporting Mackenzie to St. Joseph Mercy Livingston Hospital near the high school. But she was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Nate Hampton, assistant director of the Michigan High School Athletic Association, said his organization relies on the staff of the facility in use, such as Ford Field or the Breslin Center in East Lansing, to handle an emergency like the one that took place Monday night at Joe Louis Arena.

Hampton said he and other members of the MHSAA staff encourage school districts to be as ready as they can be for any medical or other types of emergencies.

"Not only do you have to have the proper equipment," he said. "You have the have the proper training of the equipment. Medical emergencies of all kinds scare us. In playing today's athletic activities you try to be ready for all uncertainties."
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