Shelley Savage, CEO of CardioThrive, is at the forefront of a revolutionary new device that could save millions of lives. Here we learn about the pioneering PocketDefib™ and the company’s successes so far.

Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) continues to be the leading cause of death in the world. Over 7 million people die of SCA every year – that’s over 19,000 deaths a day. A significant number of these deaths are preventable with quick use of a defibrillator. As a prolific inventor and innovator, CEO Shelley Savage and her team have developed a very forward-thinking approach to combat SCA. CardioThrive’s PocketDefib™ is a fully automatic, pocket-sized defibrillator that requires no assembly before use and can deliver a full-strength lifesaving shock at 140 joules of energy in 20 seconds. 

Public awareness of Sudden Cardiac Arrest is effectively being promoted throughout the world through organizations such as the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation, The American Heart Association, the Australian Cardiac Arrest Survival Foundation, The Resuscitation Council UK and more. But public awareness is only part of the solution. These groups promote the “Chain of Survival”; a chain of events that must occur in succession as a public protocol to treat a victim of SCA. The links in this chain are as follows:

  1. Recognize SCA
  2. Call 911 (or the 3-digit emergency number in your respective country)
  3. Start CPR
  4. Use an AED until Emergency Medical Services (EMS) arrive to administer advanced life support

In the occurrence of sudden cardiac arrest, every minute counts. It is estimated that the victim’s chances of survival will decline by 10% with each passing minute. Since the average time it takes for EMS to arrive at the scene is 9-11 minutes, the only hope the victim of SCA has for survival is reliance upon the people around them. Immediate access to a defibrillator and some knowledge of how to use the device are perhaps the most critical components in saving the life of a victim of sudden cardiac arrest.  The earliest possible delivery of defibrillation, ideally within the first 3-4 minutes, is critical.  

The point of administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is to force blood to be pumped throughout the body in the absence of a heartbeat. If there is no defibrillator readily available, this is exactly what you should do. However, by itself, defibrillation is sufficient therapy for many sudden cardiac death cases. If accessible AEDs were as common as carrying a cell phone, CPR would not likely be necessary. 

Although Automatic External Defibrillators (AEDs) are readily available in some public locations, untrained bystanders hesitate to use them. Fear of doing the wrong thing, hurting the victim, lack of confidence, or pure intimidation to assemble and use the AED contributes to the abysmal 1% survival rate of all out-of-hospital cardiac arrest events. This statistic proves that vast improvements in terms of “ease of use” must be implemented or untrained bystanders will not engage. Savage recognized this barrier to SCA survival and set the course for CardioThrive to produce an AED that was smaller, ultraportable, required no assembly, and made it so intuitive to use that it could be deployed successfully in less than 20 seconds, without any prior training to use the device.  Further, she wanted to remove the cost barrier to consumers so that people could afford to carry the device with them if they wanted to. This would increase the number of AEDs in circulation, and access to life-saving defibrillation would no longer be limited to public access AEDs mounted on the wall somewhere. 

In the US, there are approximately 2.6 million AEDs mounted on the walls in public locations. The need for accessible AEDs is closer to 29 million. In addition to the lack of AEDs available for use, these devices are extremely intimidating to the average untrained bystander. The “ease of use” barrier is a big one. Every public access AED operates the same way. You must manually turn the device on, unwrap and attach the electrode pads to the device, peel the protective covering away from the sticky electrode pad surface, apply it firmly to the victim’s chest, then stand back and follow the audio prompts for the next steps. The simple act of having to unwrap and attach the electrode pads itself causes the layperson to pause, fearing that they are not doing it correctly. This high stress, life-or-death situation can be immobilizing to the average medically untrained person. It is human nature to stand back and wait for someone else to step up and take charge. If we are to improve the critically low 1% survival rate in sudden cardiac arrest victims who collapse in public locations, then we must make these devices incredibly easy and intuitive to use. 

CardioThrive’s innovative monthly lease model would allow the consumer to carry a fully functional AED for a low monthly rate, with all maintenance of the device included. No other AED manufacturer offers this, and Savage believes that this concept is key to increasing the out-of-hospital SCA survival rate. “Let’s face it. The current defibrillation device technology is simply not working.” Says Savage. “AED innovation essentially halted more than 25 years ago, and CardioThrive is taking a giant leap forward towards a solution to save more lives. Sudden cardiac arrest does not have to be a death sentence.”

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CardioThrive’s PocketDefib is all one piece and requires no assembly. Measuring just 5”X 3”X 1 ½”, (slightly thicker than 2 iPhones stacked together,) the device is small and easy to carry. It has 2 paddles, each with its own battery and capacitor. The two paddles are connected by a unique accordion card flex circuit design. When the two paddles are separated, that triggers the charge sequence, and the device begins to charge. There’s no button to press to turn it on, and the surface of the paddles are the electrode pads, meaning there are no electrode pads to unwrap and connect to the device. All users need to do is unwrap the packaging, pull the paddles apart, and apply them firmly to the victim’s chest. That’s it. The PocketDefib will sense the arrhythmia and deliver therapeutic shocks in regular intervals until it senses the heart is back in normal sinus rhythm.

No other AED on the market is deployed this way – it can be used by anyone, anywhere, at any time. Savage believes that the CardioThrive device design and ease of use will significantly improve the survivability rate for the victims of sudden cardiac arrest.

The global impact of COVID-19 has been devastating to most small businesses, but Savage’s perseverance and commitment to efficiency has contributed to the early development stage company’s success. She explained the secret of her success to date: “Strong leadership and the ability to remain committed to reach your goals, while also adapting to outside factors beyond your control, is essential. It is important to remain flexible and look for opportunities where none exist. CardioThrive’s technological advancements in the external defibrillation space are unsurpassed.  Fully operational working prototypes are currently under development, and we anticipate filing for regulatory approval next year. With 122 patents filed in 16 Countries, we are well positioned to disrupt the AED market in a very big way.”

To find out more about CardioThrive, visit