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CHERYL TEVIS 04/05/2011 @ 1:44pm Cheryl has been an editor at Successful Farming since 1979.

As farmers head back to the field, an all-consuming push to plant may prepare the seedbed for a new crop of medical emergencies.

Farming consistently ranks as one of the most hazardous U.S. occupations. When a medical emergency arises on the farm, the risks increase in direct proportion to the distance to a rural hospital. Rural areas also may lack volunteer First Responder teams to help at the scene.

According to a 2006 five-state survey of patients in small and isolated rural areas, 25% reported travel times greater than 30 to 40 minutes for cardiopulmonary resuscitation services and 44 to 50 minutes for critical care.

Being prepared for an emergency means family members need to update their first aid training.

“We're as concerned about medical care in the first 10 minutes as the 10 hours afterwards,” says Charlotte Halvorson, an RN who is a trainer for the National Education Center for Ag Safety, Peosta, Iowa.

Families also may consider purchasing state-of-the-art home-use medical products to get emergency aid under way before medical professionals arrive.

Sudden cardiac arrest

Every year, more than 300,000 Americans suffer a sudden cardiac arrest, triggered by an irregular heart rhythm. As a result, the heart is unable to adequately pump blood to the body or brain.

An automated external defibrillator (AED) is a computerized medical device that analyzes heart rhythm and delivers a shock, if needed, to get the person back into a normal rhythm. (Not all cardiovascular emergencies are caused by ventricular fibrillation.) Simple voice commands and text are provided.

Once the AED is turned on, a rescuer is prompted to apply two electrode pads provided with the device to the patient's chest. If no shock is needed, CPR instructions will be spoken.

Most AEDs are located in public buildings and offices. However, nearly 80% of all sudden cardiac arrests occur at home.

Kay and Mike Winn, Rich Square, North Carolina, purchased a Phillips AED last year. “We have a family health history,” Kay says. “After our CPR class last year, we talked about it. We live so far out, it would be difficult to do adequate chest compressions for so long. It's an expensive device, but no more than a big flat screen TV. Which matters more?”

The American Heart Association has a Heartsaver AED course integrating CPR and AED training. Although AEDs are proven lifesavers, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recommended tighter regulation aimed at curbing design and manufacturing flaws leading to recalls. Maintenance, including replacing batteries and pads, is key to reliable operation.

Critical care emergencies

An emergency instruction device (EID) features verbal and text instructions for specific trauma categories – from bee stings to CPR. FirstVoice EID's step-by-step instructions are based on guidelines from the American Heart Association, American Red Cross, and Department of Homeland Security.

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