BY MERYL PHAIR ’21
MERT, Mount Holyoke’s Medical Emergency Response Team, received a new Automated External Defibrillator (AED) on Sunday, Feb. 18. The device greatly improves their ability to respond quickly and effectively to incidents of cardiac arrest on campus.
An AED is a portable device that can send an electric shock to the heart to restore a normal rhythm. The AED is used to treat sudden cardiac arrest (SCA), a condition in which the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating. When this happens, blood stops flowing to the brain and other vital organs. SCA usually causes death if it’s not treated within minutes, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
The AED was given to MERT by Dr. Tae Kim, a local medical director who serves as an unofficial advisor to MERT. Kim is a member of the ConMed Response Team, a Massachusetts nonprofit that offers medical response training for attendees and staff at events and shows.
“When it comes to cardiac arrest the two most important things in reviving somebody are early compressions and early defibrillation,” said Louise Tanner ’19, MERT Director and EMT. “Now that we have this, if someone has a cardiac arrest when we’re on duty we can get to them much quicker.”
The only other AEDs located on campus are in the Kendall Sports and Dance Complex and the Pattie J. Groves Health Center. The distance of those defibrillators from the rest of campus meant that it would be difficult for the MERT team to administer necessary care to someone in cardiac arrest who was not in the vicinity of those locations.
“If you’re in Chapin and someone falls over, that’s a long run,” Tanner explained. She said that MERT’s new AED will now allow them to respond to situations quicker and more effectively.
The AED is the latest addition to MERT’s first responder bag, which also includes medical equipment such as triangular bandages to stabilize injuries, splints, ice packs, hot packs, bandages and gloves. The equipment is typically stored in the MERT locker in the Campus Police building, but travels with MERT members when they are on duty.
The minimal requirement to be on MERT is to be CPR and AED certified. All members are trained in how to operate the device as well as in the necessary skills for pediatric, infant and adult CPR and AED training for one or two responders. The training is done through the American Red Cross and is offered multiple times throughout the semester. It is taught by MERT’s own EMTs. Training will be held on March 24, April 7, April 14 and April 21. Students should contact firstname.lastname@example.org if interested.
“We want to increase general heart safety awareness on campus so that people know how to recognize and respond to certain emergencies,” said Tanner. “We want all the systems to know how to work together, and that’s not just campus police. That’s all the students and professors. That’s the goal — maybe in the next couple of semesters, maybe in the next couple of years — but I’m going to get it started. This is the first step.”