Cheap health insurance vs our deadliest threat

Jul 18th, 2011 | By | Category: CPR

There are two reasons why living in a high rise can be deadly.

The first is that emergency medical services (EMS) have only 3-6 minutes within which to revive you using a defibrillator, without organ or brain damage, and they cannot get there in time, not even close. There will be no second chance at life for all occupants.

The second reason is that there is no automated external defibrillator (AED) in your building, which could have been readily brought to you within that 3-5 minute window if the building has been organized around that possibility beforehand.

And why is that?

Almost all legislation mandating the presence of AEDs stipulates their presence only in ‘public’ buildings. So you must have one in schools, government office complexes, stadiums, and the like. Because high rise residential or office towers are privately owned, they are largely outside such legislation, and the requirement for accessible AEDs is neither regulated nor observed for more than 90% of these buildings.

Which is a shame, because this situation actually affords an opportunity for dirt cheap health ‘insurance’, against this major public health problem, right around the world.

How so?

Consider first that heart disease is most likely going to be cited as your cause of death – a 70% chance or higher – so know your enemy and believe it.  Don’t assume that your fire/ambulance services can’t be all that bad – surely mine will defibrillate me – and indeed they may.

The problem here, though, is that late defibrillation will leave you with organ or brain damage – and sometimes it’s way better for your family, for society, and for you to not wish for a ‘rescue’ with that result.

Expensive too, all those remaining years in assisted care.

So what is ‘life safety’ then?

It’s people recognizing this hazard for what it is – emergency vehicles can’t get to you in these big complex buildings, with their layers of security, address confusion,  and a whole lot of traffic and 9-1-1 delays in between. When you are not breathing, 3-5 minutes is all the genie in the AED can give you, and there is no more – you’re dead for good.

So that AED absolutely has to be in the building beforehand, and publicly accessible, within plain sight, so that anyone can assist you when you collapse.

That sounds do-able.

It is very do-able, it’s as easy as having a PAD (public access defibrillator) in the elevator lobby. It should be mandated within the public safety codes for these buildings, that a PAD be there for all high rises. One AED there can protect hundreds of people, and the elevators speed access to it.

But who knows how to use it?

AEDs are designed to be used by untrained people – it’s as easy as placing two pads on someone’s chest, and nothing else – it’s just about idiot-proof.  This miraculous device has a single purpose and no other – it is there to enable early defibrillation within that precious 3-5 minute limit, after which EMS can take their time (about ten minutes) to reach the patient and then consolidate the resuscitation, transport them to hospital – this is called Tandem AED/EMS. Survival rises from near-zero to 75% or more.

Wow! But what if nobody sees me collapse?

As an ‘un-witnesssed SCA’, your chance of survival would be near zero.  However, there is a second layer of heart safety available to those living or working alone, wherever they may be, that is based on cellular technology. You wear a pendant with a ‘panic button’ built into it, and even when a lethal SCA strikes, you have 5-10 seconds of consciousness during which you can press that button as you draw your final gasps of air.

Immediately 3 to 10 cellphones get a text message telling them exactly where you are, and why you need help NOW. They (building volunteers) then bring that AED alongside you in time, and you will likely live without damage.

What if I’m having a heart attack or stroke, broke my hip, etc. – not a sudden cardiac arrest?

While not as time-sensitive as an SCA, those urgent events also demand emergency medical help, and fully benefit from having this last resort there for you during a crisis.

So what does all this cost?

Very little, from less than $4/mo/occupant for the lobby AED, maybe $20/mo for your monitored pendant if you are at high risk or elderly.

This is not health insurance, which treats or refunds you after the fact, but does nothing for you during your last moments on this planet. This is about heart safety,  that AED is a heart safety device, as is the 9-1-1/EMS network itself.

Given our overweight and aging boomer generation, we can expect heart safety to emerge and become a standard when people become aware of its importance –  it is a candidate for inclusion in building safety codes.

SCA’s cost so much more than heart safety!  When a family loses a loved one to premature death, or has to support them, as invalids, for the rest of their lives, the toll is incalculable for every party, including public health budgets.

How can we implement this?

Any building can have an AED installed in their elevator lobby for less than $2000 total. Neck pendants, if you have health risks or live alone, are not costly and extend protection into your suite or workplace.

But personal initiative is very important – ask your building administrators to put a PAD into place (sometime before they’re finally compelled to by law or the safety codes). This can and should be implemented universally, but you can install this in your building today.

Advanced heart safety is affordable for all of us, all we need to do is educate our safety agencies – that private buildings have people in them too.

–  Dwight G. Jones, Elevaed Technologies

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