Russia – a defibrillator in every school

A Defibrillator in every school: expert speaks about the battle with sudden child death


According to indicators, sudden child death is almost three times higher in Russia than the world average: there are 1.4 cases for every 100,000 pupils in Russia compared with 0.56 in the USA and Japan.

This figure was calculated by the Crystal Heart charity, working alongside Leonid Makarova,one of the leading cardiologists in Russia, and the Director of the Centre for Fainting and Heart Arrhythmia in Children and Adolescents of the Russian Federal Medico-Biological Agency. According to him, in countries like the USA and Japan, as in many European countries, automated external defibrillators (AEDs) are installed not only in schools and stadiums, but also in all crowded places, such as stations and airports, and staff are trained in providing first aid.

Maria Chernysh, the Vice President of Crystal Heart, made a statement about the urgent installation of defibrillators in educational establishments after the deathof a teenage girl during a physical education class in a New Moscow school last Friday.

“This is already the third time in the last month that news of the sudden death of a schoolchild has hit the national media. It is time to acknowledge the problem of sudden child death and to begin resolving it immediately. To do this, firstly, we absolutely must place automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) in all children’s institutions. Secondly, amend legislation, to allow teaching staff to provide first aid before the emergency services arrive, and also to oblige staff in all children’s institutions to go on first aid courses. After all, in the case of sudden cardiac arrest, you have no more than three to five minutes to administer help, any more time than that and the situation could be fatal,” said Maria Chernysh.

In her words, according to data from the Ministry of Education and Sciences, 211 school pupils died from cardiac arrest in the last academic year alone – that amounts to seven full classes. According to data from the Centre for Fainting and Heart Arrhythmia in Children and Adolescents of the Russian Federal Medico-Biological Agency, 73.6% sudden deaths amongst school pupils happen in physical education classes.

“Our organisation is trying to work on two initiatives: medicine (doctors often raise the question of treating children with conditions which can cause sudden cardiac arrest) and work with the media (discussions about preventing infant mortality). We are receiving up to date information about the current issue and what we can do directly,” said Ms. Chernysh in an interview with ASI.

According to Maria Chernysh, it is difficult to make progress on initiatives to install defibrillators, even if they could save children’s lives, because of conflicts between different departments (the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education and Sciences).

“We do not have separate official statistics on deaths from sudden cardiac arrest, but an enormous number of children are dying in Russia from lack of medical assistance. They’ve even resolved this issue in Kazakhstan. Sooner or later we will have to take necessary measures, but how many children will have to die before this is finally done,” explained the expert.

So, the use of AEDs in schools in the USA over the course of three years has helped to reduce the number of sudden death practically by 2.5 times (from 36% in 2006-2007 to 15% in 2009-2011). It allows us to compare over six years the number of lives saved by trained non-medical personnel and specialised paramedics, while without defibrillators, the survival rate remains minimal. Of 55 children who survived after a cardiac arrest, 40 were assisted by AED.

The simplicity of using AED – with regards to its cost effectiveness and the absence of lengthy preparations for learning how to working with them – allowed for AED to be included on the list of methods of pre-medical care in the recommendations of the European Council on Resuscitation together with the Russian National Council on Resuscitation.

People who have been trained to work with AED must attach two electrodes to the chest of the sick person, and then they only need to follow the voice instructions (all AED machines sold on the Russian market have been russified). The device can discern for itself whether arrhythmia requiring defibrillation is occurring, and gives directions to press on a particular button in case of emergency.


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