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It Saved 'Biggest Loser' Life; It Could Save Yours

It saved 'Biggest Loser' life; it could save yours

(Photo: Frederick M. Brown, Getty Images)

When "The Biggest Loser’s" Bob Harper went to a gym for a workout in February, he had little idea his life would soon depend on a piece of technology.

Harper, one of the most beloved trainers on the long-running weight-loss and fitness reality show, dropped to the floor of the Crossfit gym that day with a heart attack. Two doctors who happened to be in the gym rushed to his side and used an Automated External Defibrillator installed nearby to restore his heart rhythm. After a two-day coma, the 51-year-old Harper awoke and has since been in recovery from the “widowmaker” heart attack, so-called because they often lead to sudden death. Harper said his doctors put his survival odds at just 6 percent if he hadn’t gotten immediate treatment.

Last week, Harper went to NBC’s "Today Show" to advocate for the use of AEDs, and along with Dr. Mehmet Oz, demonstrated how to use the devices to save a life.

“This is my favorite piece of equipment in the gym right now,” quipped Harper, who has become known to millions as the guy who’s helped hundreds of people lose weight on the iconic show.

It would be hard to find any piece of technology that has more potential to save lives than the AED. The devices are designed to be easy to use and are now commonplace where people congregate. AEDs can assess whether an electric shock is needed to restart normal heart rhythm, and then deliver the treatment.

According to the American Heart Association, about 350,000 cardiac arrests occur each year outside hospitals, and of those, only about 11 percent of those treated by first-responders survive. But, if properly applied, CPR can double or even triple those odds, and with AEDs, the odds get even better.

“I am a firm believer in the benefits of AEDs,” said Dr. Mike McMullan, a cardiologist at University of Mississippi Medical Center who leads a program to treat adults with congenital heart disease. “According to the American Heart Association, almost 90 percent of people who experience sudden cardiac arrest outside of the hospital will not survive without defibrillation. Chance of survival decreases by 10 percent for every minute that a victim goes by without defibrillation.”

Those crucial seconds can be lost, however, if the AED can’t be easily located. On a follow-up piece on "Today," correspondent Jeff Rossen asked patrons of a gym whether they knew where to find the AED. Most patrons wandered around aimlessly as they searched for the devices, located in a wall-mounted box with a glass cover, with some sheepishly asking for help from the front-desk clerk or other customers.

And getting that life-saving help could be more problematic than you’d assume because of people’s unfamiliarity or fear. According to an American Heart Association study last year, only about half of Americans would perform CPR and other lifesaving techniques on someone in cardiac arrest. Most cite fear or unfamiliarity with how to do it properly, while others say they worry about harming the patient, and others saying they fear getting sued or having to face legal ramifications. (This, despite the fact most states, including Mississippi, have “Good Samaritan” laws offering protection from legal liability for people who use lifesaving techniques.)

“People are often scared to use an AED if they have no medical training,” McMullan noted. “However, these are designed to be used by people without medical training. The device will give you quick step-by-step instructions on how to apply and use it. And it will not deliver a shock if one is not indicated.”

The lesson: We know AEDs, in conjunction with CPR, can drastically increase the odds of surviving certain types of heart attacks. “Early CPR until a defibrillator is available is key,” added McMullan. “But the most important part of successful resuscitation is establishing a normal heart rhythm as soon as possible.”

McMullan said he’s bought an AED for his own use, and trained his wife and children how to use it. “I keep it with me in my car so that I will be able to use it anytime I am in the vicinity of someone who experiences sudden cardiac arrest,” he added. “As a medical care provider, I want to be able to help someone as quickly as possible.”

So, the next time you visit a public place, look for the AED. It is usually mounted on a wall in a conspicuous place. Although AEDs vary in design and color, there are often signs to mark its location. If you can’t find the device when you first enter a new place, ask.

Secondly, get trained. Courses in CPR, AED use, first aid and other emergency techniques are being taught constantly by a number of organizations, and many employers provide them as part of training programs. This amazing piece of technology, plus a little training, could give someone a second chance at life.

Story Credit: http://www.clarionledger.com/story/money/personal-finance/consumerwatch/2017/04/09/bill-moak-column-aed-saved-biggest-loser-trainer-bob-harper-life/100166644/