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The Heart Foundation of Jamaica (HFJ) is calling for widespread availability of Automated External Defibrillators (AED) across the island, particularly in major towns.

Speaking at a JIS Think Tank held recently, Consultant Paediatric Anaesthetist and Intensivist, Dr. Lambert Innis, pointed out that the most common cause of an adult collapsing suddenly is ventricular fibrillation, which requires the use of an AED to regulate the heart.

According to the Mayo Clinic, ventricular fibrillation is a heart rhythm problem that occurs when the heart beats with rapid, erratic electrical impulses.

This causes pumping chambers in the heart or ventricles to quiver uselessly, instead of pumping blood. Dr. Innis who is also a Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) Instructor at HFJ, explained that an AED is critical at that point.

“The treatment for ventricular fibrillation is to put an AED on that person and give a shock immediately or as soon as possible. That AED has to be nearby so that somebody can go and get it immediately,” he stated.

“Even if you don’t do any resuscitation or chest compressions, you need to shock that heart so that it can start beating properly again and the person will breathe on their own,” he added.

On this basis, he said that the HFJ is pushing for AEDs to be available everywhere. Dr. Innis also made reference to a large project that was undertaken in Toronto, Canada, where it was decided that if someone collapsed anywhere in the city, an AED would be no further than five minutes away.

“It is something that every organisation, the Government, and every human being in Jamaica would have to take on board, if we are going to achieve that,” he said.

Dr. Innis suggested that the proposed initiative should begin with the heavily populated areas such as parish capitals. “If someone collapses anywhere in Half-Way-Tree for example, an AED should be no more than five minutes away,” he stated.

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