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On-site defibrillators saving lives; YMCA latest to use one

New app tracks defibrillator availability
Posted at 5:24 PM, Mar 07, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-08 11:29:08-05

BILLINGS — It’s a call you never want to hear.

"I was mid-workout, and I heard over the intercom them announce a medical emergency," said YMCA member Gary Attebury. "I ran to the men’s locker room and found a gentleman unresponsive on the ground."

Attebury, a Billings anesthesiologist, has jumped into CPR action many times in his career, but Wednesday’s event was the first outside of the hospital.

"Once we found that he was unresponsive without a pulse, I called for an AED," he added.

YMCA sign
A man collapsed inside the YMCA men's locker room Wednesday, requiring responders to use an AED multiple times to regain the man's pulse.

An AED, or Automatic External Defibrillator, shocks the heart back into rhythm. Most commerical AEDs are very user-friendly, with audible directions. Attebury had help from another physician nearby, as well as YMCA staff, including aquatics director Kathy Devries.

"We did three complete cycles before paramedics got here," Devries said. "They took over seamlessly and got him to the hospital."

The team was able to restart a pulse by the time the man left the building, proof of the technology’s importance.

"Your survival rate increases so much more the sooner you get the AED on," Devries said.

"Especially if it’s under three minutes," added Lori Martinez, a learning manager at the Billings Clinic simulation lab.

Automatic External Defibrillator
The use of Automatic External Defibrillators, or AED's, within three minutes of a cardiac event increase a person's survival rate from 17% to 80%.

Chances of survival are said to increase from 17 percent to 80 percent if an AED is administered when needed in that three-minute range.

"That’s why here at our facility and at other facilities, we have them timed out so there’s an AED available within a three-minute run," Martinez said.

Martinez is part of a Billings Clinic team getting as many AEDs into the community as possible. Enter Pulse Point, an app that shows where AEDs are located. Users can click on an listing and view a picture of the area the AED is in within the building. One of the closest to Billings Clinic is at the Alberta Bair Theater.

"We can zoom in on this picture and see our AED is right by the coat check station," Martinez said while outside the theater.

Pulse Point
The Pulse Point app shows a user where AED's are located around them.

Sure enough, MTN News found the coat check station and found the working AED.

That’s also a focus for Martinez’s team: not just AED availability, but upkeep. They’ve found many that are expired or not working. It’s why they’re transitioning to newer models.

"We can open the system and see all the AEDs that we have and see when their pads and batteries are expired," she said.

MTN News found another a few blocks away inside St. Patrick’s Cathedral, now with a picture for easy identification. It’s peace of mind for all who have ever seen them in use firsthand, like Devries.

"It makes me calmer when I know I have the tools I need to succeed in saving someone’s life."

AED location picture
Users can upload pictures of where to find an AED inside of a building on the Pulse Point app.