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August 24th, 2011 MARTY SMITH | Dr. Know
 

Dr. Know: Defibrillator Dilemma

drknowILLUSTRATION: Hawk Krall

I work in a building that has one of of those automated defibrillator stations. My co-workers aren’t exactly medical geniuses, though. What happens if I faint and somebody decides to zap me? Can just any yahoo operate these things?

—Chicago Hopeless

Your fear is entirely understandable, Chicago. Few among us would relish the prospect of placing our lives in the hands of the same guy who just yesterday threw away a Xerox because he’d copied it upside down. 

Still, in keeping with our overall national project of making stupidity an unimpeachable sacrament, modern automated emergency defibrillators, or AEDs, are fairly foolproof, and the chances that your discreet after-lunch nap will end in fiery electro-death at the hands of one of these workplace heart-zappers are remote.

AEDs are designed with a healthy respect for the ignorance of the general public. First, they’re clever enough to check for a pulse before zapping you. If they find one, they don’t zap. (I couldn’t determine if this safety feature would still kick in if you were trying to shock, say, a watermelon. Any video on this subject would be welcome.)

AEDs also talk, walking you through the process with step-by-step instructions. It would be nice if they could hear, too, so if they caught you saying “Clear!” before you shocked somebody they could immediately power down, but this feature is apparently still in beta.

According to the National Institutes of Health, AEDs are designed so that untrained bystanders (they specifically use the word “untrained”) can save the lives of cardiac-arrest victims in those crucial first few minutes. 

That said, AED training is available wherever fine CPR courses are sold. Thanks to Oregon’s “Good Samaritan” laws, your fellow yahoos are safe from lawsuits either way, but we can always hope.

 
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