St. John Ambulance now selling AEDs

Colin MacLean
Published on March 19, 2012

A few years ago, as Wayne Purchase was driving down a street in Ottawa he came across a garbage collector attending to a man who'd just had a heart attack.

The man was running out his door with a bag of garbage in each hand when he just collapsed.

Purchase, an advanced care paramedic with Eastern Health in Newfoundland and Labrador, stopped to offer assistance. But to his surprise, he wasn't as needed as he'd thought.

The garbage man had an automated external defibrillator (AED) in his truck and was already in the process of saving the unconscious man's life.

Purchase called for help and assisted giving CPR afterwards but the trash collector already had the situation under control.

This is only one example of dozens Purchase has in his memory of AEDs saving a person's life. That's why he feels strongly they should be as prevalent as possible in society.

"These things should be deployed in any community space. In workplaces, in sporting places ... they should be placed like any other piece of emergency equipment, like a fire extinguisher," he said.

Purchase spoke with The Telegram last week, joined by Roberta Hewitt, manager of marketing and community services for St. John Ambulance.

Together the two made the case for putting an AED wherever the public gathers.

"We want the public to be aware that we think it is critical that all workplaces and places like stadiums and gyms have this life saving device," said Hewitt.

St. John Ambulance also now sells the small lunchbox-sized devices, which is part of why the organization is renewing its push for their use. The organization is not for profit and teaches life-saving CPR and emergency first responder skills to hundreds of people every year.

The money from selling AEDs goes back into those programs.

More information on specific AED models can be found by contacting St. John Ambulance or by visiting its website at

There are three models, ranging from basic to something with a hard-shell casing that would be carried by firefighters. Models range from about $1,000 to about $3,000.

Once an AED is purchased, costs are minimal. A few minor pieces have expiry dates of a year or two, but are inexpensive to replace.

Basically, they are designed to be as easy to use and maintain as possibe so that anyone, even that garbage man in Ottawa, can safely use them, said Purchase, who also volunteers with St. John Ambulance.

The machine even does most of the actual work for you. It talks to you, tells you what to do and is so well programed it can tell if a person is actually in cardiac arrest or not.

It will only deliver a shock to restart someone's heart if it absolutely needs to.

"Realistically, I could pass you this and put you in front of a mannequin ... you could take the live unit, push the power button, listen to the voice prompts and you'd be able to use that to save a life," Purchase said.


Roberta Hewitt, with St. John Ambulance and Wayne Purchase, volunteer and paramedic hold automated external defibrillators. The devices are used to save people who run into cardiac problems such as heart attacks and sudden cardiac arrest. — Photo by Colin MacLean/The Telegram