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Island airports are heart healthy

  • COURTESY TAMMY MORI
    Don Weisman of the American Heart Association, center, and Pamela Foster, program director of the defibrillator program, right, recently presented a plaque to airport Fire Chief Martinez Jacobs honoring him for his work in establishing the defibrillator program at Hawaii's airports.
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Residents and visitors who suffer cardiac arrest in a Hawaii airport have one of the best chances in the nation of surviving, says Don Weisman, American Heart Association Hawaii spokesman.

That’s because all airports are equipped with automatic external defibrillators and have people trained to use them, he said.

"It’s the only airport system we know that’s covered every airport, even with chickens running across the runway."

Airports Fire Chief Martinez Jacobs recently was honored by the American Heart Association for championing the program, which has one of the highest survival rates in the country.

Lifesaving defibrillators were placed in 14 airports on six islands by December 2006, said Pam Foster, defibrillator program director for the Department of Transportation and an American Heart Association board member.

Twelve people, including travelers and airport employees, have had cardiac arrest since the program began at airports in Honolulu, Kona, Lihue and Kapalua, Maui, she said. Ten survived.

Survival rates are up to 50 percent in places with established defibrillator programs and Hawaii airports have a "phenomenal" 83 to 84 percent survival rate, said Dr. James Ireland, medical director for Honolulu International Airport’s Crash/Fire Department and defibrillator program.

Foster said Jacobs "is very committed to this program. If it weren’t for him, obviously these 10 people wouldn’t be alive today. It was a vision he had to do this, not just to put in AEDS but to understand the need for training of people and retraining."

Foster said her firm trained nearly 5,000 airline employees, concessionaires, security personnel and airport employees in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and use of the defibrillators.

Foster is hoping her company, AED Institute of America, will be awarded another three-year DOT contract next month to continue training, maintenance and inspection of the devices. If that happens, a training schedule will be posted on aedinstitute.com, she said.

Weisman said the heart association estimates 300,000 cardiac arrests occur every year in the nation and only about 5 percent survive.

 

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