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Convenient AED’s save lives, not everyone in favor

By Kristin Sokol

For the Deseret News

Published: Friday, Dec. 7 2012 6:25 a.m. MST

SOUTH JORDAN — Utah State athletic trainer Mike Williams didn’t expect to be part of a high profile rescue when he showed up to basketball practice Tuesday, but when 22-year-old Danny Berger, a USU basketball player suddenly collapsed, Williams revived the unconscious player with a conveniently located automated external defibrillator.

Immediate usage of the AED allowed paramedics enough time to arrive and transport Danny Berger to the hospital before serious tissue or brain damage occurred.

In a cardiac event, each minute that passes without treatment reduces survival chances by 10 percent, says the American Heart Association. Waiting for the paramedics to arrive is not the best survival option, they say.

Cases eerily similar to Berger’s suspected sudden cardiac arrest are the reason South Jordan City jumpstarted an AED program in 2009 thanks to a $100,000 donation from Merit Medical, which helped deploy more than 80 AED’s in government buildings and schools.

City officials also passed an ordinance requiring most public and private buildings to house a conveniently located AED.

Not everyone in South Jordan is happy about the mandate of the life-saving equipment in every business. “If every good idea a person had were to be enforced by government, we'd surely lose all our freedom,” South Jordan business owner David Alvord said. "Thou shalt buy is a strange commandment for any business to put up with.”

Alvord, the owner of Oquirrh Mountain Dental, is opposed the city’s ordinance which requires he purchase an AED for his practice. “When Fred Lampropoulos (Merit Medical CEO) gave the original money of his own free-will to pepper the city of South Jordan, the AED program was a good thing...When the fire chief decided to mandate all businesses buy AEDs, that's when it morphed into government overreach,” Alvord said. “AEDs are all over South Jordan city. Be happy and move on. Leave small business owners alone.”

South Jordan Councilman Steve Barnes also opposes the program and has spoken out extensively to repeal the city ordinance. “If government has an idea that would benefit the general public, then funds from the general public should pay for it,” Barnes said. “Where does the government get off in forcing dentists to pay for a program that is meant for the general welfare? How many other programs are there that could potentially save lives that we should pass the cost of onto businesses that are struggling to make it in this economy?”

According to South Jordan Fire Chief Chris Evans, sudden cardiac arrest survival rates have dramatically increased since implementation. “More than a dozen people in this city are alive today because of an appropriately placed AED,” Evans said. “Our survival rate of witnessed sudden cardiac arrest has climbed from seven percent before the ordinance to 30 percent in 2010 and 25 percent in 2011.

“I’m confident this number will continue to grow as people become aware of the problem. We can’t prevent them all, but we can save tens of thousands of lives with early CPR and rapid defibrillation. It’s the only effective treatment,” Evans said.

As a result of the ordinance, more than 200 South Jordan buildings house an AED. In addition, there are 65 portable AEDs roving the city in police cars, fire trucks, at sporting events, and traveling with school teams. Evans hopes local opposition to the ordinance will fade as other communities adopt similar programs increasing the standard of care not only in South Jordan, but across the country.

Councilman Barnes says he plans to bring the issue to the council for discussion of its repeal although he isn’t certain he has the three votes necessary to repeal the ordinance. “I’m not against the program, I’m just against the way it was implemented,” Barnes said.

Kristin Sokol authors TheVocalSokol.com, a blog dedicated to helping women stay happy mostly by doing fun things.

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