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Cardiac arrest – a silent killer

Alec with Cardiologist Dr Geoff Toogood and Cardiac Technologist Victoria Rotar when presenting his story at the Peninsula Health ICD Support Group.

Sudden cardiac arrest is a silent killer – it can happen to anyone, anywhere and at any time or age. It kills between 23,000 and 33,000 Australians each year; more than breast cancer, shootings and road crashes combined.

Mornington man Alec Colombo is lucky to be alive after having an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest due to having an abnormal heart rhythm, called ventricular fibrillation.

“I was feeling quite unwell. It was not pain like a heart attack I’d had in the past,” recalls Alec.

“I was sweaty, nauseous. I said to my wife I think I should go to hospital – I can’t feel my heart.”

Alec had a heart rate of 197 when he arrived at Frankston Hospital – most adults have a resting heart rate of 60-100.

Lucky for Alec, the condition can sometimes be corrected by giving an electric shock through the chest wall, by using a device called a defibrillator.

Shoctober is Defibrillator Awareness Month, which aims to showcase the importance of defibrillators and educate the general public about how to use the machines, which can be found in many public places, such as sporting clubs.

Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) provide automated heart rhythm analysis, voice commands, and deliver a shock. You don’t have to be a health professional to operate the device; in fact an average school student is only marginally slower at using an AED than a trained paramedic.

Click on the video below to see how easy it is to operate an AED.

Every minute that passes without a heartbeat reduces the chance of survival by 10 per cent, according to the Cardiac Arrest Survival Foundation. It is urging the general public to start using an AED, if available, before paramedics arrive and can take over.

Alec is now doing well after having an ICD (Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator) inserted at Frankston Hospital. The ICD gives him instant electric shocks that return his heart’s rhythm to a consistent and regular pace.

You can find out more about defibrillators online here.