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Every second counts: how CPR and AEDs can make a difference between life and death

Dilshaan Dhaliwal is your average 13-year-old. He spends his days in school studying science, English and social studies and his free time playing basketball and soccer. But these days, he doesn’t take any of these activities for granted.
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Dilshaan Dhaliwal recovering at BC Children's Hospital

Last week, the Grade 8 student almost lost his life after collapsing in the gym at Southern Okanagan Secondary School in Oliver.

“I don’t remember anything but I was told we were running a fitness test for PE class,” said Dilshaan. “I finished the run before collapsing on the floor.”
Two teachers rushed over to help. They performed CPR and used the school’s on-site automated external defibrillator (AED). The device automatically diagnoses life-threatening heart conditions and sends electrical shocks to the chest wall of a person whose heart has stopped beating. While teachers waited for paramedics to arrive, a student told them Dilshaan suffered from congenital heart disease. The disease, in which there is an abnormality in the structure of the heart, affects 1 in 100 children.

“If it wasn’t for the AED machine and the teachers being able to jump in so quickly without any thinking and starting CPR and using the AED, I probably wouldn’t be alive right now,” said Dilshaan.
The teen had suffered a sudden cardiac arrest. While sudden cardiac death in a seemingly healthy youth is rare, it is devastating to families and communities. Dilshaan was rushed to South Okanagan General Hospital before being flown to BC Children’s Hospital. 

Dr. Shubhayan Sanatani is the head of cardiology at BC Children’s Heart Centre and treats Dilshaan. The teen had undergone open-heart surgery for his congenital heart defect as a baby. Since then, Heart Centre staff has monitored him as he still had another abnormality. 

“If Dilshaan didn’t receive CPR right away and help from an AED, he likely would have died,” said Dr. Sanatani. “Every second counts. When nothing’s being done, the survival rate of someone suffering from cardiac arrest decreases by 10 per cent with every passing minute.”
Dilshaan is just thankful that CPR-trained teachers and an AED were available when he needed them. He hopes everyone takes the time to learn CPR.  

“It’s really important to have someone ready to help. CPR and AEDs are useful for everyone to know about because they could save someone’s life.”
Dilshaan will undergo open-heart surgery for aortic valve stenosis at the end of February. The surgery will repair his heart valve to ensure his heart can pump enough blood to his body. After surgery, Dilshaan plans to continue studying hard in school so he can attend the University of Oxford in the U.K. He hopes to run his own business one day, and of course, continue playing his favourite sport: basketball.

BC Children’s Heart Centre

February is Heart Month, a time to bring awareness to the importance of cardiovascular health and reduce risks of cardiovascular disease.

BC Children’s Heart Centre provides specialized care for infants and children with congenital and acquired heart disease, from antenatal (fetal) diagnosis through to early adulthood. Each year, the Heart Centre cares for more than 4,600 children from across British Columbia and the Yukon. Heart Centre staff also travel to remote communities to provide clinical care and expertise to another 1,000 children and youth closer to home. 

As the first centre in Canada with a heart-lung machine featuring new state-of-the-art technology, the Heart Centre also cares for children from partner sites as far away as Winnipeg through the Western Canadian Children’s Heart Network.
BC Children's Hospital; Youth and young adults; heart conditions; Patient story
Children's Health
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