Needham resident Mike O'Leary practices CPR at Needham Free Public Library/ Credit: Needham Observer

The next time you walk into a restaurant in Needham, you might want to look around before checking out the menu for a chance to win a $100 Amazon gift card. The Public Health Division is sponsoring an unusual scavenger hunt to locate the AEDs (automated external defibrillators) in town. The person who finds the most before the end of February wins. Public Health nurse Hanna Burnett said it’s good to know where the AEDs are located because you never know when you might be called upon to save someone’s life. 

A thousand people a day in this country suffer sudden cardiac arrest, which means the heart stops pumping effectively. An AED is used to shock and reset the heart, and CPR can help keep the patient alive until trained professionals arrive. In Needham, EMTs respond to about 20-25 cardiac arrests each year. The town’s Public Health Division is on a mission to educate people about using AEDs and administering CPR as part of a broader HEARTSafe program.  

Last Saturday, Burnett held walk-in training sessions about basic CPR and AEDs at the Needham Free Public Library. The scene was a bit out of the ordinary, with a dozen adult and baby dummies placed on the floor for practice sessions. Burnett demonstrated basic techniques, and participants were encouraged to try their hand at doing CPR. She also outlined the very easy procedures for using an AED. “The machines tell you exactly what to do and it’s pretty simple,” she said.

Just about everyone who attended the session had questions. “Do I call 911 first before applying CPR?” “Yes, it’s important to get help as soon as possible, before you tire out from doing the compressions,” said Burnett. 

“Are there other things, in addition to cardiac arrest, that could cause someone to appear unresponsive?” The answer is yes, said Burnett, “but doing CPR will not likely cause any harm.”

Burnett encourages everyone to become heart safe. She wants residents to know that learning basic CPR techniques and knowing how to use an AED can be game changers. 

The next walk-in sessions will be held April 2 from 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. at The Center at the Heights at 300 Hillside Ave., and June 8 from 1-3 p.m. at the library.

Download the QR code to participate in the AED hunt throughout the month.

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