The app that connects heart attack victims with trained first-aiders

The app that connects heart attack victims with trained first-aiders

By Aisha Dow

Even when she is not working as a paramedic, Lauren Przedworski is ready to assist someone having a cardiac arrest. Photo: Eddie Jim


Wearing multicoloured pyjamas, Lauren Przedworski weaved through crowds as she sprinted down Little Lonsdale Street.

She had barely managed to pull her shoes on as she slammed her apartment door behind her.

Then she was off, skirting through city streets on a cool February night, making a beeline for someone in trouble.

Ms Przedworski, an off-duty paramedic, had been alerted to a potential medical emergency via an app called GoodSAM.

More than 700 Ambulance Victoria staff have been involved in the app’s trial since the start of the year. These trained first-aiders are connected via the app with people whose hearts have stopped.

“I was just sitting on the couch relaxing, watching Netflix, and the alert went off,” Ms Przedworski said. “It’s quite a loud whooping noise, like an alarm you’d expect in a fire station.

“You’re asked if you’re able to attend, and of course I said ‘yes’.

“Before I knew it, I was running down Little Lonsdale Street in my pyjamas. There were people looking at me, but the good thing is Melbourne is quite multicultural and colourful, so you blend in.”

The job that roused Ms Przedworski from her couch ended up being downgraded just as she arrived on the scene. But at least one recent case involving the app has resulted in life-saving assistance.

An off-duty paramedic was at home earlier this year when he received an alert on his phone. His neighbour had collapsed after having a cardiac arrest and was not breathing.

The volunteer’s actions have been credited with helping to save the neighbour’s life.

Authorities have emphasised that the app is not a replacement for emergency services. Instead, it is aimed at getting help to the scene in those crucial moments before the ambulance arrives. The information on the app comes from the triple-zero operator.

“In an emergency, minutes matter,” said Ambulance Victoria’s GoodSAM project manager Mike Ray.

“Every minute that CPR and defibrillation are delayed, the chances of survival decreases by up to 10 per cent. And if someone has been defibrillated before emergency services get there, they have a 62 per cent increased chance of survival.”

The app is set to be officially rolled out later this year, when it will be expanded to other responders, such as doctors, nurses, firefighters, police, medical students and other trained first aiders.

Ambulance Victoria chief executive Tony Walker said the closest available ambulance will be simultaneously sent to these patients. In some parts of the state, the fire brigade will also attend.

“This app has been operating in London for more than a year and is being taken up by other ambulance services in the UK and internationally,” Mr Walker said.

In addition to connecting cardiac arrest patients with trusted responders, the app also connects people with a nearby defibrillator, which delivers an electrical shock to the heart if necessary.

Ambulance Victoria is encouraging anyone who owns or oversees a defibrillator to ensure it is registered with them.

“We have 4000 defibrillators registered across the state, but we think that’s about one in five of the ones that are out there,” said Mr Ray.

“There’s potentially up to 15,000 others that we just don’t know about, and they are all over the place.” Mr Ray said defibrillators could be used by anyone, as the machines could guide operators.

“So if you see someone who has collapsed, and is not breathing normally, or not breathing at all, we really encourage anyone to grab it off the wall and turn it on,” he said.

Despite her demanding day job, Ms Przedworski said it was an easy choice to become a GoodSAM responder. “You can’t place a value on life. It’s intangible,” she said.

“It doesn’t matter what time of the day it is to me, or what I have been doing. It is a 24/7 thing being a human.”

People can register defibrillators or their interest in becoming a responder on the Ambulance Victoria website.

If you are a trained first-aider and would like to become a Responder, or if you own an automated external defibrillator (AED) and would like to register it to the GoodSAM app, you may go to the Ambulance Victoria website for more information.


This article was originally published by The Age on March 30, 2018.