by Paul Arnote (parnote)
It's no secret that my regular, full-time job is in the medical
field. I've worked as a respiratory therapist for 26 years, working
with patients suffering from all sorts of respiratory problems.
Part of my job is responding to "Code Blues" in the hospital, which
is what is called to alert us that a patient needs resuscitation.
So, as you might imagine, one aspect of my job is to stay informed
and up-to-date on various aspects of my trade. As such, one aspect
that I must remain current on is advances in the area of
It's indisputable that the availability and use of AEDs --
automated external defibrillators -- save lives in the event of a
sudden cardiac arrest occurring outside of the hospital setting. You
can often find AEDs in schools, auditoriums, stadiums, restaurants,
and other places where the public gathers. In just the U.S.,
approximately 1,000 people per day experience sudden cardiac
arrest. The early use of AEDs can drastically improve
survivability, especially in the "out of hospital" cardiac arrest
One of the more common causes of sudden cardiac arrest is a
condition called ventricular fibrillation. This is where the main
pumping chambers of the heart (the ventricles) start to quiver in
an uncoordinated rhythm, instead of beating in their usual
coordinated rhythm that allows it to pump blood out to the rest of
the body. Brain death can start to occur in as little as four to
six minutes after the heart has stopped pumping blood. For every
minute that goes by until defibrillation, the victim's chance of
survival decreases by seven to 10 percent. Getting the heart out of
that uncoordinated rhythm of ventricular fibrillation --
defibrillation -- is where an AED excels.
The problem is, however, their relatively high cost. Head on over
to the AED SuperStore, and you will find that they cost
anywhere from around $1,400 to nearly $3,000 (U.S. dollars). Even as
good as the devices are, many businesses, schools and communities
simply cannot afford them, especially in the current financial
climate with their strapped budgets.
Wouldn't it be nice if there were a way to recycle or reuse old
laptops and tablets as AEDs? That is exactly the goal of one U.S.
company, Florida-based Babric
Life Science Innovations. They envision a universal adjustable
frame containing the AED elements to adapt old laptops and tablets
to affordable AEDs. They call their device Com-To-Life. (The
previous link takes you to the patent information on Google
One of the reasons for the high cost of new AEDs is the rigorous
bench testing that the companies have to do on each device before
it leaves their factory. Couple that with the enormous pile of FDA
regulations that each device must meet or surpass, and it's easy to
see why these devices cost so much. The Com-To-Life device is still
in the early stages, and a prototype is currently being built. The
device will still have to survive enormous regulatory hurdles
before ever seeing the light of day in the marketplace.
There is no word about what operating system the laptops or tablets
might run, but it certainly sounds like a use that's tailor made
for Linux. Using Linux would not only help keep the cost down, but
it would also be the most reliable and secure solution.
Additionally, this endeavor sounds like a great plan to breathe new
life -- literally -- into old laptops, keeping them out of
landfills. This is something that Linux has done for years, by
breathing new life into older computers, albeit with a different
goal in mind. Instead, it would keep them in productive use, saving
AED technology continues to grow and advance, and it is interesting
to watch this burgeoning technology blossom before our very eyes.
However, in the absence of an AED, performing proper CPR is the key
to surviving an out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrest. If you have
not been trained in bystander CPR, you should seriously consider
taking the course. The life you save could be that of a complete
stranger, or the life of a loved one.
Some information for this article came from MedPage Today, and the Sudden Cardiac Arrest