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Walhalla News







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AED package

Automatic External Defibrillator
(A E D)

New Emergency Facilities

March 2017. Walhalla's isolation is never more apparent than it was in 2016, when a visiting bus driver tragically suffered a fatal heart attack while accompanying a tour group climbing to Walhalla's hilltop cricket ground. A heart attack is the gravest kind of medical emergency you may ever encounter, and one which, if left untreated, can very quickly have fatal consequences. Providing any kind of successful outcome depends critically on three things:

  • Prompt intervention
  • Enlisting qualified help
  • Emergency first aid treatment and evacuation to a hospital.

Unfortunately, none of those things apply all that well in Walhalla today. The relatively few people who live in Walhalla full-time are sparsely scattered along the entire length of the valley. There is no mobile phone coverage. And night or day, an ambulance would take at least 40 minutes to arrive by road from Moe or Traralgon. But over the course of the next 12-18 months, Walhalla will be able to provide:

  • Accessible emergency equipment (available NOW!)
  • Mobile phone coverage to enable calls to 000
  • Enhanced landing facilities for larger Air Ambulance helicopters.

Thanks to an initiative of Ambulance Victoria, we've been able to address the most critically important of these issues right now, by installing an emergency defibrillator in the centre of the town. If you ever need to locate it in a hurry, you'll find it signposted in the storage cabinet of the unused doorway alcove in front of our Gold Era Museum, next-door to our Corner Store at the very top of the Main Street hill.

AED storage

AED Cupboard Location

To make this potentially life-saving equipment available 24/7, the cabinet of course is not locked. However, to discourage random idiots, it's also monitored by close-circuit TV, and to ensure that someone else who might be able to help will also know that there's a serious problem it's wired into the town's emergency fire siren. Rest assured, everyone will know, but if you're the victim, by this stage, it's most unlikely that you'll care, or even be in a state to be greatly reassured by this knowledge.

And just in case you're the inquisitive type who might be tempted to open it up, wondering what you'll see, we'll save you the trouble. It looks like this:


Life-saving equipment

Pay particular attention to that first instruction CALL 000 FOR AMBULANCE it's probably the second-most-important thing you'll do. There's NO mobile phone coverage in Walhalla (at present), and probably won't be any until some time in 2018, so make use of the public telephone in the red phone box outside the general store some 100 meters south down the hill, on the same side of the road. Emergency calls to 000 are free.

If, on the other hand, you're the type of dill who might be tempted to open it up, just for a bit of a giggle, thinking that you'll then quickly leap into your super-fast car and zoom out of town, you should perhaps take note of the fact that for a considerable distance several kilometers there's only the one road out to both the north and south. And many of the natives have land-line phones, with the local constabulary's number on speed-dial. If you hang around to enjoy the joke, you can be fairly certain that the locals won't necessarily share your sense of humour on this matter, and may even remonstrate with you quite sternly, at the very least.

... but keep that point about locals with land-lines in the back of your mind, in case there's any problem with the public telephone.

There are at least two other emergency defibrillators in the town, one in the south at the railway station, and the other in the northwest, at the Long Tunnel Extended tourist mine. At the time of this item's publication, however, it's not clear at what hours of the day they'll be accessible.

The entire Walhalla community and doubtless, any beneficiaries to come, would like to express our ongoing gratitude to Ambulance Victoria for this tremendously valuable, life-saving, first-response initiative.


Read on for a bit of the background that makes all this necessary.

Even in a person without any prior history of heart issues, a heart attack can strike anywhere, at any time (and, unfortunately, at any age). For a variety of possible reasons, NOT all of which are necessarily related to physical exertion, your heart can begin to beat with an uncontrollably irregular rhythm, and this arrhythmia leads to what we understand as a heart attack, or in medical terminology, a myocardial infarction, or MI. Heart attacks most commonly occur when a blockage of an artery stops blood from reaching parts of the heart muscle, depriving it of blood supply. As a result, part of your heart muscle starts to die. People can suffer and survive heart attacks without knowing it; or they might experience anything from mild to excruciating pain, or simply lose consciousness.

The longer the blockage is left untreated the more heart muscle is damaged. A person can still be conscious (awake) and breathing during a heart attack, however, if untreated this can cause cardiac arrest. If you recognise any of the warning signs of a heart attack, call 000 (triple zero) immediately.

Learn the signs of heart attack, which include:

  • Aches, discomfort or pain in your jaw, shoulder or arm, and tightness with or without pain in your chest (often in the middle)
  • Nausea, dizziness and/or a cold sweat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Erratic, fluttery, irregular or faint pulse.

Without assistance, the compromised heart muscle is likely to give up trying to re-assert its normal rhythm and will simply STOP. This is distinguished as a Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA), which the medical fraternity (sometimes carelessly) equates to sudden death, "carelessly" because if everything works your way, it can be survived. But absolutely everything has to work in your favour. Make no mistake about its severity in 2015, Sudden Cardiac Arrest was one of the leading causes of death in Australia.

Five critical minutes

Brain death starts to occur in just 4 to 6 minutes after someone experiences cardiac arrest. A halted heart can often be restarted if it's treated within a few minutes with an electric shock to restore a normal heartbeat in a process called defibrillation. A victim's chances of survival are reduced by 7 to 10 percent with every minute that passes without CPR and defibrillation. Few attempts at resuscitation succeed after 10 minutes. Call for help immediately, but be aware that you can't realistically expect it to arrive too promptly.

Even in metropolitan areas, the average Australian ambulance response time to arrive to treat a cardiac arrest is 8-10 minutes.

Out of town, you might as well be on your own, unless you happen to have access to a defibrillator.

Without early defibrillation with an AED, fewer than 5% of cardiac victims survive, but defibrillation within the first few minutes of having a Sudden Cardiac Arrest increases the chance of survival to over 70%. If defibrillation is provided within 5 to 7 minutes, the survival rate from sudden cardiac arrest can still be as high as 30-45 percent. One absolute certainty is that if nobody does anything, for every minute that passes without any intervention, the chance of the victim's survival diminishes by 10%.

So learn the signs of cardiac arrest:

  • Unconscious (unable to be woken)?
  • Not breathing normally or only gasping?
  • No detectable pulse.

Survival from cardiac arrest depends on immediate resuscitation (CPR).

In the United States, where proportions are roughly the same as here, every year about 1 million males over 30 years of age will show symptoms of coronary heart disease for the first time. For a lucky few, that first symptom will be a chest pain known as angina; for about the same number, their first symptom is an unexpected heart attack; the remainder suffer sudden cardiac arrest. And within that last group are the blissfully ignorant 10% of all victims, for whom sudden death is their first, last and only symptom.

It's increasingly a problem for women, too, and especially among women over 60.

When the heart stops, blood naturally ceases to circulate. When that happens, brain tissue and heart muscle soon begin to die, so the single most important thing to do is whatever you can to keep some measure of blood circulating. If you're not trained in cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR), quickly seek someone who is. If you can't find someone, do whatever you can to simulate the effect of a beating heart by compressing the victim's chest rhythmically every second or two. Push as hard as you can, and don't even pause to think of the risk of broken ribs, which can easily heal, and for which someone who survives such an episode might even thank you. You'll soon find it very tiring, though, so if possible, arrange for others to take over in shifts.

Just start, and don't stop!


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This page was last changed on 05/11/17.