Tim Russert and CPR/AED Awareness

According to his physician [video], Tim Russert had a left anterior descending myocardial infarction (MI), which is called a "widowmaker" for obvious good reason. Russert's MI caused his heart to go into ventricular fibrillation (v-fib). According to his physician, Russert was given CPR by an intern almost immediately. He might have had a better chance of survival if NBC news had an Automated External Defibrillator (AED), because, as his physician notes at the end of the interview, that's what reverses v-fib (if it's reversible).

Last week was CPR/AED awareness week, due to a bill sponsored by Randy Kuhl. Russert's death should also increase the awareness of the importance of trained responders and widespread deployment of AEDs.


It is possible that Tim Russert could not have been saved with an AED. What maybe more important now is what we can do for others who may suffer from sudden cardiac arrest. It seems irresponsible these days if a corporation does not take advantage of current first aid standards.

I have looked, without success, whether or not NBC has an AED/CPR plan.

If there is anything nationally that can occur from this tragic event is an open discussion as to first aid standards for government and industry alike. Employees should feel their workplace protects them. We have rid most workplaces of second hand smoke, equally we should have access to the device that can make a life saving difference in sudden cardiac death: an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED). Remember cardiac disease is the #1 cause of death of Americans.

Speaking directly to NBC and other organizations who interview world leaders in studio. I hope you consider the responsibility you shoulder should one of them suffer cardiac arrest while on your property. An AED is cheap liability insurance. The liability comes from not following what is known, now, as the standard of care. If your building do not have AEDs, do it in memory of Tim.

To the Russert and NBC family who are in mourning, our prayers for you.

Ron Quinsey, Paramedic
former American Heart Assoc. National and State Emergency Cardiovascular Care Committee Member
Washington State FIrst Aid Standards Author

If the NBC Washington Bureau did not have an AED available in the building shame on them. In this day and age even golf courses have chosen to purchase one in the event it would be ever needed. This should serve as a reminder and a sad one at that just maybe the 2500.00 could have saved his life. He will be missed dearly

Thank you
and every company out there should purchase one in his memory

In 1996 my friend died of SCA in front of 120 people (including me), at a party. After his death I joined my local FD and became an EMT and EMT-CC. I became very passionate and began teaching CPR to everyone I know. When the PAD program came to NY my husband and I met with a defibrillator mfg and we began installing, implementing, training, etc at corporations, camps, schools, health facilities. When an AED is installed it becomes Public Access - It must be visable and reachable by the public. It must not be locked up in a "nurses office", in the desk of a "safety officer", it must be placed and available for all to see and use if needed. Every facility must develop, train, and practice emergency action plans for medical, fire, etc.
We do need to learn and move forward from these types of tragedies where help could have been provided and death might have been prevented. My sincere condolences go to the family and friends. Tragedies such as this can can help others.

We now know that there was an AED in the building; reports are that NBC employees were "getting ready to use" it when the paramedics arrived. What we do not know is why it took so long for the AED to get to Mr. Russert's side.

Too bad he's no longer with us to ask the tough questions that were his trademark.

Was it a flawed response plan by NBC? Did they buy and AED and just hang it on the wall without a plan? Was it NBC's defibrillator or one owned by the building owner - if NBC shares space in the building?

We also don't know what the 9-1-1 caller told the dispatcher and what questions the dispatcher asked the caller. Did the dispatcher know there was an AED in the building? Too many times these kind of events happen because the dispatcher doesn't know there is an AED available and is unable to tell the caller to go get it.

AEDs can be registered for free at www.NationalAEDRegistry.com. Communities that subscribe to a system called AED Link (www.aedlink.com) can have the nearest AED location displayed on the dispatcher's console within seconds of determining a sudden cardiac arrest event.

Elliot R. Fisch, President/CEO
Atrus, Inc.

Don't forget that an infarct in the LAD is often deadly. In many cases there is simply not enough viable heart tissue left to continue perfusion. An occlussion of the LAD attacks both the conduction system of the ventricles and the mechanical function by blocking perfusion of the ventricles. It is essentially a one-two punch on the heart. That's why they call it the "widow maker". The V-fib. seen on ECG with this type of MI is usually not reversible. We've seen many cases where the patient has been defibrillated within minutes of going down, up to three times, and still no conversion. Even external pacing will not work with a massive occlusion of this artery, due to the tissue death, so an AED, while useful for other cardiac events, probably would not have changed the outcome. The physician in this case was misquoted, as an AED is used to treat V.fib., but what the patient needs with an LAD occlusion is rapid re-perfusion therapy. Time would be best spent on teaching the public to recognize the signs and symptoms of a heart attack, as many of the victims of these massive heart attacks had some symptoms before hand, did not seek treatment, had prior heart muscle damage, and then became even more occluded. As a cardiac nurse/EMT/CPR instructor, I support the initiative to place AED's in public places, and training for the layperson, but we all need to keep realistic expectations with events like these. People die despite our best efforts and care. Blame should not be passed around following a horrible event.

Thanks for your article. I really like it very much. Something I like to add, many newspapers ran stories about the first annual National CPR/AED week. Congress set aside the first week in June to spotlight how lives can be saved if more Americans know CPR and how to use an AED (a defibrillator).

Now we have many stories of the tragedy of a high profile public figure struck down by cardiac arrest that may have been prevented through the availability and use of an AED. Details may be forthcoming, but the story so far is that Tim Russert did receive bystander CPR, but no defibrillation until the EMTs arrived some minutes after his collapse. This is all too common a situation and causes hundreds of deaths per day across the country.

Thank you for writing about the ease of use of AEDs. They’re really very simple, provided that someone can follow directions spoken in English. A lot of people are intimidated by them because they look very technical, but it really is pretty much “Send someone to call 911, slap the patches on like the diagram, push the button, stand back while it decides whether or not to shock, keep anyone from touching him, and push the big blinky button when the machine says to.” No one should ever look at someone he thinks has had a heart attack and let themselves be afraid to use the AED. It really can save a life.

The physician in this case was misquoted, as an AED is used to treat V.fib., but what the patient needs with an LAD occlusion is rapid re-perfusion therapy

If AED’s are so idiot proof, why is there NOT a video on the web which shows how to use them. The WebMD video is about some woman taking the training course at the Red Cross. I don’t care about her training, I want to watch a video that shows ME how to do it. It goes to show how WebMD (and even the Red Cross) is about making money and not helping people out.