Local News

Defibrillators best alternative when EMS not on hand

Posted August 17, 2009 6:01 p.m. EDT
Updated August 17, 2009 6:34 p.m. EDT

— Michael White, a 15-year-old lineman for Cary High School's football team, collapsed on the football field during a scrimmage Friday night in Raleigh.

A doctor attending the game was performed CPR until an EMS crew arrived and used a defibrillator to restart the teen's heart.

Wake County Public School System's athletic director, Bobby Guthrie, said that although state guidelines recommend it, it is not always possible to have emergency providers at every sporting event.

That's because the resources are not available, according to Brent Myers, director of Wake County Medical Services, which includes EMS.

"There are only 38 ambulances available on the road in Wake County," he said. "If we staffed every home game on some Friday night, that would take half the ambulances available to the entire community."

Emergency providers say the next best thing to having paramedics on standby is having the equipment and the people who are trained to perform life-saving techniques until EMS arrives.

"We double the patient's odds of survival if we would be so kind as to push on their chest with cardiac compressions, while (an emergency crew is) coming," Myers said.

Dr. Graham Snyder, an emergency room doctor at WakeMed in Raleigh, said a defibrillator can be the difference between life and death.

"Defibrillators can be immediately life-saving for a number of different medical conditions," he said. "In a perfect world with unlimited resources, I would want a defibrillator to be on hand."

Guthrie said that every high school and middle school in Wake County is equipped with a defibrillator.

"The unforeseen can happen. You just try to be aware – have your athletic trainers be ready to handle any situation possible and just hope for the best," he said.