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Health P.E.I to introduce defibrillator registry later this fall

Wilbur Birt and his wife, Barb, are shown at their home in Charlottetown. Wilbur has recovered from suffering heart failure while playing golf earlier this year.
Wilbur Birt and his wife, Barb, are shown at their home in Charlottetown. Wilbur has recovered from suffering heart failure while playing golf earlier this year.

Wilbur Birt was on the third hole at Fox Meadows Golf Course when he felt a pain in his chest.

He stumbled, but didn’t fall.

His playing partners looked at him and knew immediately something was wrong.

“What’s going on?” they asked.

“I’m just going to go and sit on the bench and wait for you guys to finish,” Birt said.

He collapsed.

The guys got him into the golf cart, called 911 and rushed him to the clubhouse parking lot to wait for the ambulance.

Four men took turns trying to revive Birt with CPR for more than 20 minutes. Two men knew CPR, but they hadn’t practised it in awhile. They ended up breaking four of his ribs, but Birt is thankful for their efforts.

“They saved my life. They kept the blood flowing to my brain,” Birt said.

If a defibrillator was more readily available, the injuries Birt sustained during CPR may have been prevented.

The province wants to provide a quicker response for people, like Birt, suffering cardiac arrest, so it’s creating a new automatic external defibrillator (AED) registry.

It will allow 911 dispatchers to tell a caller helping a patient having a heart attack where to find the nearest publicly accessible defibrillator, direct the caller to either retrieve it, or ask someone for assistance and provide instructions on how to use it until the paramedics arrive.

Back at the golf course, when the ambulance arrived, the paramedics realized Birt wasn’t breathing. They shocked Birt four or five times using a defibrillator. They began to lose hope.

“Give him another one,” somebody said.

They only give four as a rule, Birt said, but “I got six that day.”

They got a pulse.

By the time Birt got to the hospital, his face was turning purple. His body started to turn blue because he had no oxygen. The doctors had to give him four bottles of oxygen just to get him breathing, Birt said.

“My friends looked at me and said, ‘I don’t think we’ll see him again alive’.”

Island First Aid Services business manager Chris Landry said every second counts in emergency situations.

“We’ve already seen huge improvements in survival rates because of AEDs that are out there now and people doing CPR quickly,” he said. “So, to improve upon the access of the devices by having this registry in place, I think, is definitely going to improve outcomes by far.”

The AED registry is expected to be launched later this fall.

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