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Why Doctors Want to Make AEDs More Widely Available

Automated external defibrillators can check a person’s heart rhythm, recognize when a shock is required and advise the rescuer when to administer it.

(TNS) — When Justin McQuillen died in 1994 after being hit by a pitched baseball, the technology for automated external defibrillators was not as sophisticated as it is today.

Today, the lightweight, portable devices can check a person’s heart rhythm, recognize when a shock is required and advise the rescuer when to administer it.

Some AEDs use voice prompts, lights and even text messaging to tell the user what steps to take. Most range in cost from $1,500 to $2,000, according to the American Heart Association, though less expensive models can be found.

McQuillen, 9, of Honey Brook, Pa., died in May 1994 after being struck in the chest with a baseball in a Twin Valley youth league game. An AED was not immediately available at the field.

“People playing baseball, if they get hit in the chest, could go into sudden cardiac arrest,” said Dr. Michael Koslow, Reading Hospital’s chief of cardiology and a member of Cardiology Associates of West Reading. “Children, young athletes and older athletes are at risk.”

Such situations are not that frequent, Koslow noted, but they can happen.

Koslow is a member of a steering committee for HeartSAFE Berks, a program supported by the Friends of Reading Hospital to place AEDs in locations throughout the community.

Since 2010, $500,000 has been spent to buy 386 AEDs for police, high schools, middle schools, sports arenas and other high-traffic public areas in the community.

Koslow said that youth baseball leagues can purchase AEDs through HeartSAFE at a reduced rate.

“The technology today is user-friendly,” he said. “The AEDs are portable and battery-operated. The ultimate goal is to make AEDs as common as fire extinguishers.”

Dr. Gregory T. Wilson, also a cardiologist with Cardiology Associates of West Reading who practices in Reading Hospital, said he purchased two AEDs through HeartSAFE: one for the Exeter Township Little League, where his 8- and 12-year-old sons play, and another for BIG Vision Foundation, a youth sports program in Bern Township.

“As a parent, I would not want anything to happen to my kids,” Wilson said. “Having a defibrillator there is very important. For every minute that passes, the survival rate decreases by 10 percent.”

Wilson said there have not been any incidents at the fields that have warranted use of the AEDs, but they are a good safeguard to have.

“There are so many kids that play in Little League,” he said. “From a heart standpoint and a safety standpoint, it makes sense to have one on the field. You should have one permanently there.”

©2015 the Reading Eagle (Reading, Pa.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.