MEMPHIS, Tenn. — When you’re having a heart attack, automated defibrillators could be the difference between life and death.
WREG Investigators uncovered the deadly consequences when several failed at the Shelby County Criminal Justice Center last December.
WREG also found out only a few people in county government were actually trained on how to use them.
“Somebody dropped the ball. They didn’t make sure they were working at all times and its somebody’s responsibility to do that,” said Robin Walton.
You could say Shelby County failed in more than one way in the minutes leading up to Marzine Pegues’ death.
As WREG first told you last night, she died last December when at least two defibrillators didn’t work.
The day Pegues collapsed inside the courtroom where she worked, we’re told it was pure chaos.
Off camera some employees told us even if the defibrillators had worked, it appeared no one had ever been trained on how to use them.
They said even courtroom officers scrambled around unsure of what to do.
Attorney Claiborne Ferguson learned CPR years ago.
He and another attorney jumped in and performed CPR on the clerk.
“Did anyone at the courthouse seem to know how to operate it,” asked WREG’s Stephanie Scurlock.
“It didn’t seem that anyone in the courthouse was trained on the operation of the automated defibrillators,” Ferguson replied.
The Sheriff’s Office said deputies were trained on automated defibrillators and CPR as recruits and continue training every two years.
However, other county employees were not.
We went to county administrators to ask why no one was trained to use the machines.
“It’s fairly easy on how to operate and that’s when you open it up and pull the knob it tells you what to do next,” said Tom Needham, the Director of Public Works for Shelby County Government.
The machine does talk you through what to do, but when someone is having a heart attack and the room is in chaos, the American Red Cross said training helps a lot.
The organization even recommended it.
“It definitely serves as a comfort ability factor. A lot of folks are hesitant to use them if they never seen them before. They might not know what it does,” said Stephanie Iacobucci, an American Red Cross trainer.
Needham said there was training but it was years ago.
“When they were installed there were people trained in each one of the areas and that training has not been kept up like it should,” admitted Needham.
That training took place 8 years ago.
Many of those originally taught how to use the defibrillators may no longer work in county government.
The Employee Council requested training again.
The county agreed.
They also replaced the batteries in all of its 100 defibrillators 2 weeks after Pegues’ death.
They said they now monitor them monthly and there’s a plan for replacing batteries and pads.
“Rather than wait 5 years we’re now replacing batteries every 3 years,” Needham said.
Hearing the changes gave Pegues’ daughters some comfort.
“Not for her but for anybody in any courtroom at anytime. Nobody knows when this is going to occur,” said Pegues’ daughter, Vicki Holmes.
They’re glad to see the county take action but hate it took the loss of their mother for change to happen.
“I just wasn’t ready for her to go yet,” sobbed Walton.