Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A Lesson from Tim Russert's Death

The sudden death of NBC's Tim Russert last Friday has been covered extensively, but the details of what could have caused his heart attack are starting to emerge. According to the New York Times, Russert had a history of coronary artery disease, high blood pressure and an enlarged heart (cardiomyopathy). In particular, cardiomyopathy and coronary artery disease are linked to sudden cardiac death syndrome, where death occurs within minutes of the first symptoms of heart attack.

There's a question as to whether or not an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) was present in NBC's newsroom. According to Russert's cardiologist, in an interview on CNN, there was an AED present, but it wasn't used; according to other reports, there wasn't an AED available, and CPR was administered by an intern. In either case, by the time paramedics arrived and defibrillated Russert, it was too late. One of the big advantages of AEDs is that they sense the presence or absence of a heartbeat and only shock the heart if a shock is needed, so there would have been no risk to Russert in using it.

In any event, there's an enormous lesson in this tragic event: An AED should be in every television station and in every electronic newsgathering truck, and all full-time station employees should be trained on how to use them. AEDs can be purchased for as little as $1,000; they're cheap insurance. I'd like to see either the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) or the Radio and Television News Directors' Association (RTNDA) get behind an effort to distribute AEDs in Russert's name. If even one life is saved with an AED, the effort will be worth it.
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Anonymous said...

Tim Russert and George Carlin

Two beloved American celebrities have succumbed to heart disease before their time. The national response has been disappointment in a medical system that could allow this to happen. What could have been done differently to save the lives of both Tim and George, to avoid this fatal outcome?

To read more...Saving Tim Russert and George Carlin by Jeffrey Dach MD

Jeffrey Dach MD
4700 Sheridan Suite T
Hollywood FL 33021
my web site

Unknown said...

Dr. Dach,

The medical value of your comments is questionable, as by your own admission you have absolutely no more access to the medical records of either Tim Russert and George Carlin than anyone who reads the newspaper. In addition, I take strong exception to what you said about George Carlin on your website. Because you couldn't find any reference to Carlin criticizing the medical community, you made the assumption that Carlin was happy with medicine. I'd ask you to read my posting about him a second time--his first wife died of cancer a a day before his 60th birthday. I can't imagine that he was happy about that.