Defibrillators save lives, says St John Ambulance volunteer

Martin Gaspari at the Fairfield West COVID-19 testing clinic recently.
Martin Gaspari at the Fairfield West COVID-19 testing clinic recently.

As you can imagine, it came as no shock to Martin Gaspari - a volunteer with the St John Ambulance members Fairfield Division since 1995 - the numbers when it comes to defibrillators.

Every day the hearts of 16 Australians suddenly stop pumping and their chance of surviving is minuscule unless there is a defibrillator nearby.

Cardiac arrests remain the leading cause of death across the nation, with around 20,000 people having a heart attack away from a hospital every year and just 10 per cent surviving.

"Defibrillators save lives," said Mr Gaspari, while promoting Shocktober, a campaign during Defibrillator Awareness Month in October to raise awareness in the community about the importance of having access to, and knowing how to use, defibrillators.

"Every minute you waste, decreases the survival rate by 10-per cent. The quicker you start CPR and connect to a defib, the better chance they have for survival."

The NSW Ambulance paramedic said it's "paramount" to know where defibrillators - which are used to treat a sudden cardiac arrest - are located in the community. A defibrillator instantly analyses the heart rhythm and recognises abnormalities, determining whether a shock is required and telling the user what to do through voice commands.

The use of a defibrillator can improve chances of surviving cardiac arrest by up to 70 per cent.

The use of a defibrillator can improve chances of surviving cardiac arrest by up to 70 per cent.

"The good thing is the defibrillators are made so simple, anyone can pick them up and use them," Mr Gaspari said.

"As soon as you open the defib, it's already telling you what to do and where to put the pads. And even on the pads it has images of where they need to be placed so you get a good analysis of the heart and it tells you if it's going to be a shockable rhythm or a non-shockable rhythm and when to do CPR.

"As a paramedic, the first responder is very important because we can unplug it and plug it straight into an ambulance defibrillator very quickly because we don't have to remove pads and we can get a visual of what the heart is doing."

Speaking to the Champion while on a break from swabbing people for COVID-19 in Sutherland, Mr Gaspari said he has always had a passion for helping people.

After completing first aid in year 11, the Liverpool resident joined St John Ambulance as a volunteer before completing nursing and paramedic qualifications. On his rostered days off, he can be found helping out in the community especially duping the pandemic.

"I have been all over Sydney - Fairfield, Roselle, Liverpool, Homebush, Roselands - at testing clinics," the 41-year-old said.

"I've always loved being out in the community and helping people. That's all I have ever known. I really enjoy it; it's very rewarding to give back to the community and being able to educate and inform people."

St John Ambulance NSW CEO Sarah Lance said encouraged all Australians to respond to emergencies, particularly sudden cardiac arrest events, "without hesitation."

"Anyone can use a defibrillator," she said.

"In the event of a cardiac arrest, each minute that passes without intervention - including defibrillation - reduces the chance of survival.

"The combination of CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and defibrillation is the only definitive treatment for sudden cardiac arrest and could increase survival rates by up to 70 per cent.

"Defibrillators should be installed everywhere large crowds congregate - shopping centres, sporting grounds, concert halls, and on public transport.

"They need to be within three minutes' reach of any sudden cardiac arrest."

St John Ambulance has developed COVID-safe online classes to equip people with lifesaving first-aid skills with the easy-to-follow online course costing just $25, and taking just 30 minutes to complete.