Each year 270 children die at school as a result of Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA). This is a shocking statistic and there is much that can be done to make this a thing of the past. SCA kills more people than breast cancer, lung cancer and AIDs put together, yet it is little known to be such a deadly killer. Cardiac arrest is caused by an electrical malfunction in the heart which disturbs the regular beat of the heart by causing it to beat arhythmically. The most common form of this is ventricular fibrillation (VF) and when in this state, the heart cannot pump blood around the body meaning that cells and tissues begin to die.
Young people are at a higher risk of SCA because their hearts are still developing and any excessive exercise or activity can place a strain on the muscle. The first 3 minutes that follow cardiac arrest are vital to a victim’s survival. Effective treatment must be administered within this time to ensure the person reaches the hospital in a viable state. Average ambulance response and rescue times currently sit at approximately 8 minutes across the UK so it is imperative to administer defibrillation treatment before they arrive.70% of all cardiac arrests happen outside the hospital environment and 95% of these will die before they reach medical attention. Resuscitation and defibrillation are the only effective treatment for cardiac arrest. CPR alone gives the victim only a 6% chance of survival whereas this coupled with the use of an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) raises this dramatically up to 74%.
Children are also at risk of commotio cardis, which is when SCA is caused by a sharp blow to the heart by a projectile. This can happen in many ways but is most frequent within a sporting environment and examples include a football, a hockey puck etc. There have been many cases of this across the UK and overseas over the last 12 months and an AED on the scene could have changed many of these outcomes for the better.80% of cardiac arrests happen to those with no previously diagnosed heart abnormalities or conditions and cardiac screening is infrequent amongst young children. SCA is indiscriminative of who it can affect and can happen to anyone without any prior warning. SCA is so deadly because no visible symptoms are experienced by the victims before they go into cardiac arrest.
It is crucial to provide basic life training for both students and staff and place defibrillators into schools to ensure that we see a definitive drop in the number of children whose lives are claimed by SCA each year. By providing both staff and students with valuable CPR and AED training, we are equipping them with not just life-saving skills but the awareness of what SCA can really do.