OCEAN CITY – Imagine a 21-year-old collapsing on the beach during a football game. Friends and lifeguards rush to the victim only to find there is no pulse. CPR is virtually useless and the seconds pass with slow agony as everyone waits for the ambulance to arrive with the equipment needed to revive his heart. With each passing minute, chance of survival slips away. Fortunately, the Ocean City Beach Patrol is well prepared for situations like this. With 12 Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs), the patrol saved the life of that 21-year-old earlier in the summer.
It was on the Fourth of July when the man collapsed on the beach during a football game with his friends. He simply sat down and rolled over on the beach. His friends were unalarmed at first, until they approached him and realized he was unconscious and had no heartbeat. Sgt. Josh Wasilewski arrived immediately on his quad, equipped with an AED, which all of the guards are trained and certified to use. Wasilewski attached the AED, which read the heartbeat and gave instructions to shock the victim’s heart. Wasilewski shocked the victim, gave CPR and then shocked him again, obtaining a heartbeat. The man survived thanks to the quick efforts of the beach patrol and quality technology of the AED.
“Without the AED, we probably would not have been able to revive him,” Captain Butch Arbin said. “I think [the AEDs are] huge, but the impact it’s had on the families that we’ve saved is monumental.”
Ocean City acquired the AEDs thanks to the family of Roger L. Herrell, who drowned in the surf while visiting Ocean City in the summer of 1999. In appreciation for the efforts performed by the beach patrol that day and to honor the memory of Herrell, friends and family raised money to donate to the Town of Ocean City for the purchase of AEDs. Parents, friends and godparents of Herrell came before the Mayor and Council, presenting the town with a check for $6,000 to be used to purchase four AEDs.
Since that time, the number of AEDs have grown to 12 and the number of lives saved has increased as well.
On Aug. 7, 2005, the AEDs were put to the test, saving the life of a woman on the Boardwalk. The woman collapsed while walking the boards around 10 a.m. that morning. Despite guards not being on duty yet, Sgt. Tim Uebel heard the EMS call over the city’s EMS channel and rushed to the scene. Uebel was only a few blocks away and was already on his quad, equipped with one of the AEDs. As a result, he arrived within minutes with the AED ready to go.
After assessing that the victim had no pulse, the AED read that her heart needed to be shocked. Uebel shocked her heart, reviving her heartbeat. He then connected her to oxygen as the ambulance arrived to transport her to the hospital. The AED that saved her life read Roger L. Herrell on the side; it was one of the four AEDs donated from Herrell’s family.
Today there are 12 AEDs available for the beach patrol. The beach patrol divides the 10.5 miles of beach into four areas, with an AED in each area. The quads that ride up and down the beach also come equipped with AEDs, making them easily transported and ready at a moments notice. “We have enough now that we have them all up and down the beach,” Captain Arbin said.
An AED electrically monitors the heart, checking a person’s heart rhythm and recognizing when a heart is in need of shock. The AED advises the operator when to shock by reading the heart’s electrical activity.
“If it sees a certain type of condition, then the machine tells you what to do,” Arbin said.
Arbin explained that the AEDs provide essentially no risk to the victim or the operator. Because the AED reads the heart activity and advises the operator on what to do, there is little chance of harming a heart, but a huge chance of saving one.
The required training also makes the use of AEDs safe. Every lifeguard, whether they are a rookie or a returning guard, are required to go through surf rescue training each year. Part of the training involves AED training, ensuring that every guard, whether they have the AED with them daily or not, are well trained to use them.
Arbin explained how instrumental both CPR and AEDs have been in saving lives. He explained that CPR keeps the victim alive until the AED can provide the shock needed to revive the heart.
“We’re delivering quality, advanced EMS,” Arbin said as he explained how efficiently and quickly lives can be saved thanks to the 12 AEDs. “The quality and quickness of response really enhances our emergency care.”
The use of AEDs varies each summer.
“I’m aware of six cases where AEDs have been applied,” Arbin said, adding that five of those six had been successes.
This summer has required the use of the AEDs twice, with the first occurring on the Fourth of July and the second occurring this past Sunday when a man dove into the surf, causing injury to his neck and back that was so severe it caused his heart to stop beating.
The AED was used, assessing his heart and then reviving it, enabling EMS to transfer him to Shock Trauma. Arbin reported that the man was starting to get feeling back in his hands and feet.
“It was pretty much a miracle,” Arbin said of the save, attributing the save in large part to the AEDs.
“Having AEDs on the beach really has made a difference for us,” Arbin said.