The life-saving devices are already in four city buildings and
Gilroy – They will be present on the sidelines of athletic events, among the crowds at graduations, and during choir concerts at Gilroy High School: automated external defibrillators.
The school is the latest public building to acquire the life-saving devices in Gilroy.
Four city buildings have automated external defibrillators installed as part of the Gilroy Fire Department’s public access program that brings life-saving devices to community members’ fingertips.
City Hall, Wheeler Manor, the Gilroy Senior Center and the City Corporation Yard house the four machines. Three more were recently purchased and city officials are debating this week where to install them. More than half of the city’s employees have received training on how to use the devices.
So far, none have been used in an emergency.
“More and more you hear about how they can save lives,” said Jack Daley, GHS’ athletic director. “I think it will make our campus a safer place.”
Automated external defibrillators are used on individuals suffering from cardiac arrest to shock the heart back into a normal rhythm and get blood flowing to the organs.
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) must be performed if the defibrillator works to provide oxygen to the victim until emergency personnel arrive.
GHS Athletic Trainer Jennifer Spinetti has been trying to acquire the device for years. Friday, she received notice from Saint Louise Regional Hospital that they were donating two to the school.
“Two years ago at San Benito a spectator went down,” she said. “Fortunately, there was an off-duty Sheriff present who had borrowed a friend’s car that had (a defibrillator) in it. They were able to save him because of it.”
Three years ago Spinetti had to go up into the stands because a spectator was having irregular heart spasms. While she did not suffer a heart attack, she was transported to a local hospital.
The scenario got her thinking, “What if it happened here in Gilroy?” she said.
According to statistics from the National Center for Early Defibrillation, 7,000 individuals die annually from cardiac arrest who showed no previous signs of heart problems.
Reports in the New England Journal of Medicine indicate that about 95 percent of sudden cardiac arrest victims die, however, when an automated defibrillator was administered within the first three minutes, a victim’s odds of survival increased to 74 percent.
“We have a lot of people that come onto this campus and if they drop, we’ll be ready,” Spinetti said.
Starting Monday, science teachers and some GHS coaching staff will receive instruction on how to use the machines. The goal is to get 100 percent of the staff trained.
“Within four to five minutes (after their heart stops) someone is brain dead,” said Yvette Phillips, public education specialist for GFD. “And in less time they are brain damaged, meaning they will never be the same.”
The minutes saved if someone on scene can administer the shocks will not only save lives, but change them.
GFD began the Public Access Defibrillator Program in January.
“We wanted to make sure the community can empower themselves,” she said.
Public access defribrillators are designed for anyone to use.
“It literally talks to you,” Phillips explained.
An automated voice walks you through the process. Diagrams show where electrodes should be placed on the body, and lights on the machine flash directions too.
The defibrillator searches for a pulse on the victim. If one is detected, a shock cannot be performed.
“It will not allow you to shock at your own convenience,” Phillips explained. “You just can’t keep shocking someone.”
The machines are not made to be used for children younger than age eight.
Each defibrillator purchased through the program costs about $1,700 to $2,200.
City officials recommend all businesses inquire about buying one for their own office.
“People have a misconception that cardiac arrests only happen to seniors,” Phillips said.
But just this month, 28-year-old Atlanta Hawks basketball player Jason Collier died of cardiac arrest, and in 1998 a North Monterey athlete dropped during a competition.
Though no public access defibrillators have been used in Gilroy, Phillips says they are worth every penny.
“Once someone needs it … then it will be worth its weight in gold. We do not put a price on life,” she said.