Defibrillator campaign equips fishing boats with lifesaving medical devices
In a bid to shore up medical services in Newfoundland and Labrador's offshore environment, the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation is working to put defibrillators aboard fishing boats.
The foundation's regional vice-president, Mary Ann Butt, says the lifesaving devices are critical in the province's marine environment.
"It's not like you're in the city and you can call 911 and an ambulance shows up at your door," she said. "We recognize this is another gap where we don't have the appropriate equipment at the ready."
Automated external defibrillators can restore a heartbeat after it slows, or even stops. Butt said their simplicity of use make them an indispensable tool to have aboard.
"We actually say quite often [that] if you can turn on an AED, you can use it," she said.
An emergency situation aboard the Hibernia, during which someone went into cardiac arrest, highlighted the need for onboard defibrillators.
The Heart and Stroke Foundation partnered with the provincial Fish Harvesting Safety Association to think about how to put them in place, said Butt.
As a result of the partnership, Butt said, 105 fishing boats are now better prepared for a cardiac emergency.
At sea, where medical services can often be delayed, Butt said, it's imperative that bystanders take action — by administering CPR, for example — in an emergency, even if they don't feel qualified to do so.
"Even if [the CPR] is not perfect, it gives the person their best chance of survival," Butt said. "If someone is in cardiac arrest … and you don't have CPR training, you can use your phone, use your hands."
The most important thing is to have "the courage to act," she said.
"Some people have a bystander effect, where they may only have one session of CPR training and they won't step in to apply CPR. But we're saying any action is a help to a person who is in cardiac arrest."
The campaign to furnish fishing boats with AEDs comes on the heels of a five-year campaign that equipped every school in Newfoundland and Labrador with one.
Butt says the province's demographics — most fishermen tend to be older — coupled with what she calls a "genetic predisposition" to cardiac arrests, make the situation all the more urgent.
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