In the Loop

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November 22nd, 2013

The doctor is out, grab the AED

By In the Loop

One day, while seeing a patient, Cheri Olson, M.D., of Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse suffered a sudden cardiac arrest. Right there in the exam room, her heart stopped. "I walked in to see (the patient), started the examination, the discussion, and fell over dead," Dr. Olson told WXOW-TV.

Fortunately for her, Dr. Olson's colleagues moved fast, grabbed the AED (automated external defibrillator) in the clinic's lobby, and were able to revive her even before the crash carts arrived from the hospital. She says she had no warning something like this would happen. "I was 50 years old, had been feeling totally fine, had no awareness of any problem with my heart," Dr. Olson told WXOW. "It can happen to any age person, and it can happen to any healthy person."

That was five years ago. Since that day, Dr. Olson has worked to increase the survival rate of victims of sudden cardiac arrest wherever they may be as the president of the Seven Rivers Chapter of the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association. The group helps businesses and organization acquire AED devices, which cost about $1,200. In 2012, the organization trained more than 1,000 people in CPR and the use of AEDs.

According to the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association, about 400,000 Americans experience a sudden cardiac arrest each year, and despite technological progress, fewer than 10 percent survive. That makes it the leading cause of death in the United States. AEDs administer an electric shock that restores the heart's normal rhythm, and if the heart can be shocked quickly after a heart attack, an AED can help save a life.

And it looks like the work of the Seven Rivers Chapter is making a difference. We're told that the cardiac survival rates for the region are above the national standard. And that's what it's all about, according to Dr. Olson. "For me it's just such a blessing to be given a second chance at life, to be able to see people who survive, to know people, to be able to give back to the community," Dr. Olson told to WXOW.

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