Spreading the good word on defibrillation

When a medical story makes network TV news, you get a sense that your cause might get a nice boost. And that was no doubt the case for Roger White, M.D., and our friends on Mayo's Media Relations team when a story about Dr. White's work on AED (automated external defibrillator) deployment in Rochester, Minn., which resulted in the best-in-the-country survival rates (58 percent the past three years) for people who suffer sudden cardiac arrest, made NBC Nightly News.

Dr. White is the driving force behind a program that put AEDs in every police car in Rochester, in addition to ambulances and fire trucks. In many cases, that has meant that life-saving defibrillation can be applied sooner since police are often first to arrive on the scene. "The time between collapse and defibrillation is crucial to survival," Dr. White told NBC. And once the police department got over some initial hesitancy about using the devices, and after one officer saved a life by using the machine, enthusiasm "spread like wildfire," Dr. White says.

Rochester's success has attracted interest from other parts of the country, and Dr. White would like to see that continue. The NBC story didn't hurt, as he soon learned. Our friends from media relations shared with us a few of the (de-identified) emails Dr. White received after the story aired. Not one to toot his own horn, Dr. White did agree to let us share them here. (Anything for the cause.)

Like this message from a Delta Airlines flight attendant who recognized Dr. White. (The story goes that whenever Dr. White gets on a plane, if he doesn't know the flight attendants already, he asks if they know where the AED is and if they know how to use it.)

"Wow, great timing! I just came in from Amsterdam … hit the power button on the television, and your story unfolded not a second too early. What a great contribution you have given to the community and for others to follow."

And this one from King County, Wash., where Dr. White's colleagues have modeled their program after Rochester's:

"Roger, great to see this story ... a testament to lots of hard work and lives saved."

And this from an American Heart Association training manager:

"Congratulations on last night's great story on NBC and the incredible results you have achieved with the deployment of AEDs ... I hope many cities will see the opportunity, follow your example, and see their outcomes improve dramatically."

And this from a former patient:

"Glad to be part of your success story, Dr. White."

You can see from the report here and especially the continued interview here that it's comments like that last one (from patients who've survived) that really drive Dr. White.

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