A defibrillator has been ordered for the lodge at Gullfoss after a tourist collapsed and died from heart failure on Saturday.
The tourist, an older woman from Germany, had a prior history of heart problems.
Doctors from Germany and the United States who were also visiting the waterfall were among first responders, and attempted CPR for half an hour while waiting for help to arrive.
It was not until then that a defibrillator became available—tragically too late for the German woman, who was officially declared dead upon arrival at hospital in Reykjavík.
Although a defibrillator might not have been enough to save her life, the incident was a grim reminder to staff at Gullfoss Café of how vitally necessary such equipment is.
A defibrillator has been available for some time at the dining and shopping center by Geysir, as well as in most police cars around the country—but there are none in Ásbyrgi, a canyon in Vatnajökull National Park, and popular tourist destination.
According to Ólafur Ingi Grettisson, watch officer at the Metropolitan Fire Brigade, emergency equipment like defibrillators should be available everywhere where people congregate in great numbers.
“This equipment should be available everywhere where a heart attack can be considered a likely occurrence. Well-traveled places like fitness centers, swimming halls, shopping centers and tourist attractions,” Ólafur told mbl.is on Monday.
The proximity of such life-saving tools to someone undergoing heart failure can make all the difference—the survival rate of persons in cardiac arrest drops by about 5-10 percent by each passing minute.
This is especially important in remote yet popular places like Gullfoss, where emergency services are a 40 minute journey away.
Most of the defibrillators made available to the general public are very user-friendly and designed to be operated by individuals with limited medical training.
Once the machine has been switched on, an automated voice directs the user on how to properly attach the sticker pads to the affected person.
“It then automatically evaluates whether the patient needs to be shocked,” said Ólafur. At that point it becomes effectively self-operating.
If the defibrillator were then to be hooked up to someone not in cardiac arrest, it would refuse to activate—making what might seem like a formidable and complicated device, safe for almost anyone to operate.