When former yellow Wiggle, Greg Page, suffered a sudden cardiac arrest in January 2020 during The Wiggles’ charity concert at Castle Hill RSL, it was an off-duty nurse who saved his life through CPR and the use of a nearby AED (automated external defibrillator).
He was urgently transferred to Westmead Hospital, where Senior Staff Specialist Cardiologist Professor Pramesh Kovoor and the Cath Lab team inserted a stent into his coronary artery to essentially avoid any damage to the Wiggles’ heart muscle.
Greg is one of the lucky ones; only 10 per cent of people in Australia survive a sudden cardiac arrest.
Following this realisation, Greg created “Heart of the Nation”, a charitable initiative to raise awareness about sudden cardiac arrest, and the critical role that members of the community, combined with rapid access to an AED can make in increasing survival rates.
Prof Kovoor and his son Dr Joshua Kovoor, a resident medical officer in Adelaide, have teamed up with Greg as honorary consultants for the Heart of the Nation and are petitioning for defibrillators to be made mandatory in all public buildings including schools, libraries and sporting facilities.
In 2020, only 26 per cent of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests attended by NSW Ambulance had a heart rhythm responsive to defibrillation.
AEDs only deliver a shock if it can detect a heart rhythm, and in 2020 when he suffered his cardiac arrest, around 20,000 others were not as lucky as Greg and did not survive,” said Prof Kovoor.
“Heart of the Nation implements programs and initiatives that aim to fill the gaps in the community – promoting the locations of AEDs, educating the community that you don’t have to be certified, trained or qualified to use an AED, and helping to place more AEDs into areas where they can be accessed by the greatest number of people in times when they may be needed.”
Prof Kovoor even keeps an AED in his car.
On 30 November 2022, the South Australia (SA) Parliament passed the Automated External Defibrillators (Public Access) Bill 2022, making SA the first state or territory in Australia, and one of few in the world, to mandate the public provision of AEDs. The Bill will come into effect for government and public buildings in 2025 and a variety of private buildings in 2026.
“Greg, Joshua and I feel that for the benefit of all Australians, other states and territories should follow the example set by SA and move to implement similar laws mandating the public availability of AEDs in their communities,” said Prof Kovoor.
They are also working toward the implementation of a world-uniformed, easily recognisable bright sign to enable easy identification of AEDs.
“We surveyed 2,538 people at Westmead Hospital and found that the Heart of the Nation yellow-red sign was preferred by 73.0% participants as easier to identify in an emergency such as a cardiac arrest compared to the currently used green-white sign 27.0%,” said Prof Kovoor.
Prof Kovoor is no stranger to pioneering work in the cardiology field.
In 2004, in partnership with the NSW Ambulance Service and Royal North Shore Hospital, the Prof established a system of triaging potential heart attack patients in the ambulance, rather than the Emergency Department (ED), to ensure patients were sent to a hospital with a Cath Lab team who could have an operating theatre ready to go.
This ground-breaking work at Westmead Hospital has saved many lives and has been adopted across the country, becoming the standard of care.
“The shorter the delay, the better,” said Kovoor. “It’s really a no-brainer.”