An AED may be a relatively small piece of equipment, but the difference it can make in a person’s life is huge.
Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) are used when people have suffered a sudden cardiac arrest, and a recent bicycle tour by a company that distributes the devices helped highlight their importance.
Iridia Medical launched the first ever Tour D’Iridia earlier this month. The five-day, 400-kilometre cycle tour of the southern Vancouver Island region focused on visiting BC PAD Program locations, drawing attention to the program and raising general awareness of AEDs in the communities.
Tour D’Iridia has its roots in Iridia’s appointment as the AED distributor to the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s BC Public Access to Defibrillator Program (PAD).
To date, 237 devices have been placed, and 20 of those have been on southern Vancouver Island. Apart from supplying the devices, Vancouver-based Iridia is also responsible for providing ongoing technical and customer support.
Through the PAD Program, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, in partnership with the BC Ambulance Service, will donate about 450 AEDs over three years to public places like recreation centres, arenas, pools, community centres, libraries, senior centres, busy playing fields, parks and beaches.
AEDs are portable, easy-to-use devices that read the heart’s rhythm and only deliver a shock if needed. If a shockable rhythm is detected, the bystander is instructed to press a button to deliver a shock, helping the heart return to a normal rhythm. If no shockable rhythm is detected, the AED will not administer a shock and the bystander is instructed to perform CPR until paramedics arrive.
In B.C., the current survival rate for an out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrest is only about 12 per cent, but when CPR and AEDs are used together in the first few minutes during a cardiac arrest, survival rates may increase up to 75 per cent, according to the BC Ambulance Service.
At each stop along the Tour D’Iridia, Tour ambassador Michael Galasso met with program co-ordinators to check in on the AEDs.
Galasso, who races in road and cyclocross events for Vancouver’s Escape Velocity Racing Team, crossed the Georgia Strait by ferry on Sept. 29 and began his tour in Saanichton. He connected with the 19 program co-ordinators between there and Qualicum Beach, finishing the tour Oct. 3.
When the Tour D’Iridia came through Ladysmith Oct. 2. Galasso met with Ladysmith Parks, Recreation and Culture fitness programmer Sue Glenn at Forrest Field, where there is an AED provided through the PAD Program in the accessible washroom.
“What the tour is for me to see the AED, make sure it’s in working order, answer any questions and raise awareness,” said Galasso, who had stopped at Fuller Lake Arena in Chemainus the day before.
Glenn says Forrest Field is a great spot because it’s so busy and so many people use it, whether they are walking around the field, watching games or playing sports.
“It’s one of those things that we hope we don’t need to use, but the more we have accessible, the better,” she said. “The research has proven the efficiency of the AED, especially when it comes to first responses, and Forrest Field is such a well-known and well-used facility in our community. I think it’s definitely a fit with the amount of people using the field. I know we’re very much appreciative of the Heart and Stroke Foundation and Iridia Medical for receiving the AED.”
In Ladysmith, there is also an AED at the Frank Jameson Community Centre.
Galasso says the bike tour is a great way to go into communities and make stronger connections than you would make by simply driving from town to town.
“We decided by bike was the best option, to take it slow and get to know people,” he said. “We hope we can connect with these communities and put a face to Iridia and be more of a group of people than a corporation. Also, it’s to raise awareness of the Heart and Stroke Foundation because the more people know of the program or know they can have an AED, the more people who are applying for them, the more investment will go into it.”
Galasso says many of the facilities he has visited are at the end of a long road, and response times from emergency personnel could take a while, so it’s good to have an AED and the ability for someone to use it if they are faced with a situation where one is needed. He had been to one facility two days earlier where the AED had been used, and it had saved a life.
Galasso hopes this tour helps start a conversation around AEDs and how they can be used.
“There are a lot of questions that don’t get asked in a CPR class, for example, can it be used on a pool deck,” he said. “A lot of the questions I get, if I can’t answer them, I can direct them to [Iridia AED program manager Julie Turley] in the office right away. It’s been nice to have that connection with the community through me and through the tour. It’s been a lot of fun; I have a great time doing this.”
To learn more about the BC PAD Program, visit www.bcpadprogram.ca.