Saving Lives Along the Walk

AnMed Health Chest Pain Center Coordinator Champions AED Project

There’s a walking trail which circles the North Campus of AnMed Health in Anderson, SC. It’s an inviting, mile-long path that staff, patients, and the community all make ample use of, and it’s outfitted with lights and fitness stations to boot. Cardiac rehab patients are encouraged to use the path during recovery and beyond as a means of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

But when a patient actually went into cardiac arrest on the track, it occurred to Kimberly Hill, who had recently become the Chest Pain Center Coordinator at the hospital, that something was missing: automated external defibrillators, or AEDs. These electronic devices are used in emergency cases of “cardiac arrhythmias” which can lead to cardiac arrest. Luckily, a first responder was near this particular patient and had an AED in their trunk, but what if they hadn’t been there?

“Some parts of the trail are kind of remote, and sometimes people just want to unplug and get out there and walk,” she points out. “We not only have a huge community base out there of all ages, we also have a [specific] high-risk population that we know is out there.”

Hill wanted a plan in place for future cases when they might not be so lucky. Thanks to the assistance of AnMed Assistant Vice President Kathy Deloplaine, who had been working to get a supply of AEDs through discounts and other programs to distribute throughout the community, Hill had one of the most important components—the devices themselves. So Hill met with the Heart Stroke Safe Community at AnMed and started putting a plan in place.

“I thought it was going to be simple—‘oh, I’m just going to put five of them out at the track—but I quickly realized it wasn’t that easy,” she recalls. “We had to keep them secure, they had to be temperature controlled to maintain the warranty, we had to figure how to get 9-1-1 there—all of these things.”

So once she got approval from the AnMed Health Board, Hill pulled a team together from different parts of the hospital staff—IT, communications, engineering, EMS, and security, among others—to troubleshoot a plan.

“We talked to a couple of different vendors about what would be most cost-effective because there are not a lot of options out there that not only have the simple power ability to call 911 with one button, but to also have the AEDs secured and temperature controlled,” Hill said. “We had to figure out what our goals were—how to space them, how to use the money we had [effectively], what we could accomplish.”

 

The solution was to purchase third-party housings from Code Blue that provided the environmental and communications tools necessary to make the AEDs effective.

“As a nurse, I learned a lot more about voltage and electrical wiring than I ever thought I would,” Hill laughs. “There are so many pieces to think through!”

The team also made sure there were clear instructions in each AED tower, each of which uses as simple button system to dial 9-1-1 and release the AED to provide monitoring and accountability of the machines. They also made sure there were clear, sustainable maintenance plans for each of the machines—batteries and pads, for instance, will degrade over time even if they aren’t used. An AED machine that isn’t properly maintained can often be just as useless as not having one at all.

Hill says it took nearly three years from hatching the idea to installing the towers which now dot the trail.

“It’s pretty exciting to drive by them every day,” she admits. “I always say ‘those are my little blue babies!’”

Her passion for getting AEDs out in the community is clear. She’s been busy getting community leaders to her in distributing machines to other public areas and school districts in addition to raising awareness about the value of AEDs. She credits her success to having a team and thinking strategically about implementation, as well as the valuable network of ST segment elevated myocardial infarction (STEMI) coordinators that South Carolina boasts. She urges others to follow in her footsteps.

“Do your homework. Get several people together at your organization to brainstorm, see what their thoughts are on how to accomplish your goals,” she advises. “Have evidence to support your purpose. See if any cardiac arrests have occurred in the immediate area, what the outcomes were. Put a face behind it to make it personal—this could be someone’s father or mother, brother or sister, husband or wife, son or daughter.”

“Minutes matter,” she concludes. “Saving one person's life is worth it.”