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Defibrillator drive to save lives

EMS raising money to put several devices throughout community

by: Photo By Susan Matheny - Automatic defibrillators can be used in emergencies by laymen.

General Editor
   July 2, 2003 — Heart attack victims who have CPR within one minute and a defibrillation machine ready to jump-start their heart within the same time period have a 90 percent chance of survival, according to national emergency services statistics.
   Just this year, three patients were struck with heart attacks at Madras High School, a car dealership, and the senior center but were revived with quick action and the use of defibrillators.
   When an employee experienced a heart attack during homecoming festivities at MHS this fall, a defibrillator was credited with saving her life, according to District Nurse Sue Morgan.
   "I was in my office when I heard the call on the radio that someone had gone down at the MHS track. I was there within 1 to 1 1/2 minutes and did CPR with teacher Amy Ireland, and the ambulance was there with a defibrillator 1 to 1 1/2 minutes later. I believe their quick arrival and early defibrillation saved her life," Morgan said.
   That incident spurred the school district to purchase an automatic external defibrillator (AED) of its own to have on hand, with the help of donations from local service groups.
   Since the new technology can be used by just about anyone, Jefferson County Emergency Medical Services (JCEMS) is raising funds to purchase 12 to 15 AEDs to be placed in law enforcement patrol cars, schools, the senior center, city hall, Cove Park, and other public places.
   JCEMS Assistant Manager Don Heckathorn explained, "They cost $1,300 per unit and laymen can use them. You just push the button, turn it on and do what it says. You can't make a mistake with it."
   Heckathorn said airports and shopping malls now have the automatic units on hand for emergencies. The units are especially helpful in rural areas, where it might take an ambulance longer to arrive.
   "Most of our area is fairly rural, and in most areas it takes us more than eight minutes to respond," Heckathorn said. "That's why we're looking at getting them into patrol cars, because most times the sheriff's deputies of police are there before we are and they could save some lives."
   Madras Police Chief Tom Adams said because law officers are out driving the streets, they usually are the first ones at the scene of a medical emergency.
   "The Bend Police Department currently carries them (AEDs) and they are essentially foolproof. We'd have to have training, but they're very easy to use. If we can save one life, I think it would be worth it," Adams said.
   Once the AEDs are purchased, JCEMS will provide the training and upkeep on the units, Heckathorn noted. The ambulance district hopes to obtain some grant funds from groups such as the Oregon Communities Foundation, but local contributions are also needed.
   Anyone interested in donating to the fund may send checks marked "For AED Grant Program" to JCEMS, P.O. Box 265, Madras, OR 97741, or contribute to an account being opened at Columbia River Bank. For more information call 475-7476.