Saving Heart Attack Victims

Heart attack victims often don't get the help they need until paramedics arrive on the scene. A bill being pushed through Congress would give those suffering cardiac arrest immediate treatment, reports CBS News Correspondent Lee Cowan.

Sponsored by Sen. Slade Gorton (R-WA) and Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL), the bill proposes increased availability of automatic external defibrillators (AED) in more public places.

Defibrillating a heart attack patient within the first minutes of cardiac arrest dramatically increases a patient's chance of survival.

"Given a minimal amount of training, almost anyone can use the device effectively," says paramedic Glenn Ortiz Schuldt.

The defibrillator shocks the heart back into rhythm in the crucial minutes during a heart attack. Thirty-seven states have laws requiring placement of the device in certain public places.

"We're aiming this legislation and saying to the federal government-- catch up with these other 37 states," says Sen. Gorton.

Often it can take as long as ten minutes for an ambulance to arrive-- too late to do any good.

A brand new defibrillator saved heart attack victim Bob Adams life after he dropped to the floor in the middle of Grand Central Station.

"The only thing going for us here is that we just had this brand new unit in---that we didn't have before." Said Salvator Olivagrand of the Grand Central Terminal Fire Brigade.

Currently the survival rate for sudden cardiac arrest is only about 5 percent-- due largely to the fact the defibrillators don't arrive until the ambulance does.

"If I had fallen in the street or fallen in my office I wouldn't be alive alive today," said Adams.

Experts say an estimated one-hundred thousand lives could be saved every year if the devices are made available.