AEDs can turn bystanders into lifesavers

Alabama Living Magazine

By Allison Law

Southern Pine EC employees with Devin Collins, center in blue vest, who was on a job site when a power line made contact with his truck. Quick-thinking employees used an automated external defibrillator (AED) on Collins to help his heart re-establish an effective rhythm.

Quick action and repeated training can help someone in medical distress. And with a little help from technology, they can save a life. 

That’s not just anecdotal. At Southern Pine EC, an automated external defibrillator (AED) and a quick-thinking crew helped save a young man’s life on a job site. 

Devin Collins was a 19-year-old groundman at the co-op. He was part of a construction crew working on a job site, and when a power line fell on his truck, the current disrupted his heart’s rhythm. 

Two co-workers grabbed an AED, made by the ZOLL company and bought from Birmingham-based GoRescue, and immediately began CPR. Another co-worker made the call for emergency responders and met them at the street to lead them back to the accident site. 

AEDs are used to help those experiencing cardiac arrythmias – which can lead to sudden cardiac arrest. It’s a sophisticated, yet easy-to-use medical device that can analyze the heart’s rhythm and, if necessary, deliver an electrical shock, or defibrillation, to help the heart re-establish an effective rhythm.

For Collins, it was a lifesaver, and his doctor cleared him to return to work in a week. 

“God had his hand on everybody that day,” says Vince Johnson, general manager of Southern Pine. 

After Collins recovered and the staff talked about the incident, Johnson worked with safety manager Danny Taylor to come up with a plan to ask the board of trustees to purchase an AED for every co-op vehicle – even the forklift – as well as for multiple AEDs in the office. “That gives our employees, whether they’re helping the general public, or helping each other, a better opportunity to have one of those available, no matter where they are or what they’re doing.”

The Southern Pine board of trustees was 100% in favor of providing the AEDs wherever they were needed at the co-op. Johnson says some people may be concerned about the cost of the machines, which can be more than $2,000 each. But as Johnson says, how much is a life worth? “It’s worth every penny and then some to make sure our people are protected.”

AEDs increase the chance of survival following sudden cardiac arrest by 40%, says Jeff Whatley, statewide safety specialist for the Alabama Rural Electric Association, which publishes Alabama Living. “Combine this with effective CPR and the survival rate rises to 70%.

“Trained employees are now able to activate the cardiac chain of survival almost immediately,” Whatley says. The Southern Pine  Electric co-op requires annual training for all office and outside employees, and in fact just had training the month before Collins’ accident.

Johnson says that if employees are out in the community in a co-op vehicle, and something like sudden cardiac arrest happens, having an AED on the vehicle (which is clearly marked) gives the bystander the opportunity to take the AED and use it. “You never know when you’re going to need it,” Johnson says. 

Collins, who is back at work, had a unique opportunity to “pay it forward” after the accident. The ZOLL company has a program called Heroes for Life, in which survivors can donate a ZOLL AED to the charity or non-profit of their choice.

Collins chose the T.R. Miller High School’s athletic department; he had recently graduated from the school and played sports there. Because of the expense, many schools don’t have multiple AEDs available. 

The donation was made in a ceremony at the school last fall. “This is a way to celebrate our survivors and allow them to pay it forward to help (a) sudden cardiac arrest victim,” according to a news release from the company.ν


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