(COLUMBUS, Ohio) – Colby Mast loves spending time outdoors, playing video games and tossing a football with his high school teammates. Although Colby is a healthy teenager today, he suffered sudden cardiac arrest in the first grade while simply walking across his classroom. If not for the immediate actions of his teachers utilizing an automated external defibrillator (AED) and administering CPR, Colby might not have survived.
“They’re the reason why I have him back today and back to himself,” said Amber Vincent, Colby’s mom. “He really didn’t suffer any long-term consequences from anything because he didn’t have brain damage, because he had so much support right away.”
Colby underwent heart surgery at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. A year after his procedure, he was allowed to return to normal physicial activities, including football. “The first game that he got to run out on the field with his high school team, I was hysterically sobbing,” Vincent said. “It’s just so cool to see him live through what he’s lived through, and then get to do the things that he loves.”
While sudden cardiac arrest is rare, it can happen to anyone at any time – including children, non-athletes and healthy individuals. Educating youth and adults to act swiftly and use an AED when they witness medical emergencies can help save lives. The AED is a portable electronic device that automatically diagnoses potentially life-threatening heart rhythms and delivers a shock only if necessary.
“The most common misconceptions about AEDs are that they are difficult to use and that they could cause harm. An AED will not deliver a shock if one is not necessary, and all you need to know how to do is take it off the wall and turn it on. It will do the rest,” said Dr. Naomi Kertesz, director of electrophysiology and pacing at The Heart Center at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. “With sudden cardiac arrest, you have two to five minutes from the time a person collapses to the moment the AED fires to make sure permanent damage is avoided. You will not do harm by using an AED – you can save a life.”
During Heart Month this February, experts at Nationwide Children’s want to emphasize the importance of AED and CPR training in schools and local communities. Each year, there are more than 350,000 sudden cardiac arrests outside of a hospital setting in the United States, affecting those of any age. More than 2,000 children die of cardiac arrest each year in the U.S., many of whom appear otherwise healthy and have no known heart condition.
Experts say AEDs should be immediately available during school and community events, and on and off sports fields. Staff should know how to use an AED and perform high-quality CPR.
Survival rates increase significantly when AEDs are actively used. According to existing research, of the entire population, in people younger than 35 years old who suffered a sudden cardiac arrest, 48% survived. If CPR was performed, survival increased to 78%, and if an AED was placed and used, the survival rate was 89%.
Dr. Kertesz also serves as the Medical Director of Project ADAM Ohio (Columbus affiliate). Project ADAM is a national nonprofit organization that assists schools and communities in establishing a practiced plan to respond to sudden cardiac arrest.
Learn more about Colby’s story and AED education.
About Nationwide Children’s Hospital
Named to the Top 10 Honor Roll on U.S. News & World Report’s 2022-23 list of “Best Children’s Hospitals,” Nationwide Children’s Hospital is one of America’s largest not-for-profit free-standing pediatric health care systems providing unique expertise in pediatric population health, behavioral health, genomics and health equity as the next frontiers in pediatric medicine, leading to best outcomes for the health of the whole child. Integrated clinical and research programs, as well as prioritizing quality and safety, are part of what allows Nationwide Children’s to advance its unique model of care. Nationwide Children’s has a staff of more than 14,000 that provides state-of-the-art wellness, preventive and rehabilitative care and diagnostic treatment during more than 1.6 million patient visits annually. As home to the Department of Pediatrics of The Ohio State University College of Medicine, Nationwide Children’s physicians train the next generation of pediatricians and pediatric specialists. The Abigail Wexner Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital is one of the Top 10 National Institutes of Health-funded free-standing pediatric research facilities. More information is available at NationwideChildrens.org.