Defibrillator-equipped drones could be 1st on scene in cardiac arrest

A drone could get to a patient faster than emergency services and could increase survival rates

Dispatching drones outfitted with defibrillators like the one above, in yellow, could cut response times and increase survival rates during cardiac arrest. Currently, only 10 per cent of people survive a cardiac arrest that occurs outside a hospital.

Dispatching drones outfitted with defibrillators like the one above, in yellow, could cut response times and increase survival rates during cardiac arrest. Currently, only 10 per cent of people survive a cardiac arrest that occurs outside a hospital. (Ashley Burke/CBC)

By Blair Bigham

When a heart stops beating, a defibrillator shock needs to be applied within minutes.

But for many Canadians, fire trucks and ambulances can’t get to the scene fast enough. On average, only 10 per cent of people who suffer cardiac arrest outside of hospital survive (cardiac arrest is distinct from a heart attack, which can sometimes, but not always, cause cardiac arrest).

Marsha Hawthorne waited 32 minutes for an ambulance to arrive after her husband, Curtis, went into cardiac arrest one night six years ago after putting their two kids to bed.

“When I was on the phone with 911, all I could think was, ‘Every second, I’m losing him.’ Every split second I was losing him if I didn’t get them here,” Hawthorne said.

“It was devastating because I was trying to save his life because I promised I’d save his life. And also to save my kids lives because it would destroy them.”

Marsha Hawthorne

Marsha Hawthorne’s husband, Curtis, went into cardiac arrest one night in February 2010 and died while waiting for the ambulance to arrive. It took more than half hour to come to the couple’s home in a rural area outside of Ottawa. (Ashley Burke/CBC)

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