The New Rage: Medical Emergency Drills?
Imagine what would happen if your child did not have fire drills at school and a fire broke out. Would teachers and students react appropriately or would they hesitate and be unsure what to do? Those practice drills helps tremendously. That’s why fire drills were created.
But what happens when the emergency is a medical condition like a heart attack or seizure? Do all the staff members at your child’s school know how to use an Automated External Defibrillator or AED? What about CPR? If they have been trained, how often do they practice how to react during an emergency? And would they remember to call and get help or would they just run over to the child and panic?
Dr. David Chan, the co-director of the Congenital Heart Center at OSF St. Francis Medical Center, says students and staff members at schools need to practice how they would react to a medical emergency. He would like to see all schools have Medical Emergency Drills. He said there have been cases recently of people hesitating about what to do and how to do it and that can lead to a decrease in oxygen for the patients and serious, permanent brain damage. Reacting a few minutes faster can have a huge impact on the person’s long term health. Dr. Chan said, “Most people will not act rationally unless they have practiced it. They get nervous and are unsure because there’s a lot of pressure during an emergency.” He said practice is what gives people the confidence they need to put their training to good use.
Identifying athletes with heart conditions
The reason Medical Emergency Drills came up in my conversation with Dr. Chan is because I asked him if society is becoming better or worse at identifying athletes with serious heart conditions who could suddenly die while playing a game or at a tough practice. This has become a hot “news” topic in recent years. Parents want their kids to be screened and they want reassurance their child won’t become a victim of sudden cardiac death. But that’s not an easy thing to accomplish. Dr. Chan said there are two big obstacles: there is no fool proof way to determine whether sudden cardiac death will happen to an athlete unless costly, evasive tests are performed; and the tests that may detect a heart problem in an athlete are not very accurate.
“Here’s the statistic. If you screen out 1000 teenagers with this abnormality, you may only be saving one teenager and restricting 999 others. Do we dash the dreams of 999 athletes in order to save that one? If you’re that one parent, your answer is yes. If you’re one of the 999 families, your answer is no. We don’t have a perfect way to screen athletes,” said Dr. Chan. He said, if the coaches all took part in Medical Emergency Drills, we would see fewer teenagers dying from these rare heart conditions. He wants parents and schools to put as much focus on how to react to a medical emergency as they do on prevention.
Don’t go to convenience shops for school physicals
But Dr. Chan says there is one obvious thing you can do as a parent before school starts to protect your child from sudden cardiac death. Dr. Chan said take your child to a qualified primary care physician or family doctor for the annual physical. He said too many parents are expecting expensive “rib-eye from a fast food chain.” He tells parents to go to a doctor who completed a residency program, not to a nurse or another allied health professional. He said he believes doctors are more likely to ask thorough questions and pick up on subtle signs of a heart problem. Dr. Chan said, “In all fairness, are there some good individuals who work there (convenience care centers)? Yes, but you have better odds of getting someone who has had more experience with these problems by going to a general practitioner.”
The bottom line
Dr. Chan said, “As much as people talk about screening, we need to talk about how to help these people if that were to occur. In my lectures, I really talk about yes, there are things we can do to screen, but it will be a long time coming before we can really identify these individuals. Are we able to handle emergencies when they do come up so we can have a good outcome?
So, when you’re in a hurry and you have to get that school physical form filled out, you might want to think twice about where you’re headed. And as you get involved in your child’s school, you might want to bring up the topic of Medical Emergency Drills. There’s a good chance no one has ever suggested the idea and it could save a child’s life.
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Tuesday, November 8, 2011
The New Rage: Medical Emergency Drills?