Proven tool for sudden cardiac arrest cases
An alarmed voice calls for help. The voice tells the 911 operator that a family member has collapsed.
Emergency responders find an unconscious man on the floor of an upstairs bedroom. He has no heartbeat. The responders immediately begin CPR by hand. Will the man survive?
If emergency responders can deploy a LUCAS device immediately, the man’s chances are greatly improved, according to Hamel Firefighter Mario Fabrizio and Medina Police Chief Ed Belland. Both expressed enthusiasm about the arrival of a new Physio-Control LUCAS 2 Chest Compression System at 92 Hamel Road, home of the Hamel Volunteer Fire Department.
The emergency responder places the plunger of the LUCAS 2 device on the victim’s sternum. The device then calibrates timing and depth of compression and compensates for the victim’s body type — large, small, fat, slim. When the device swings into action, a light goes off every six seconds to tell emergency responders when to squeeze the bag on the breathing mask.
The Loretto Fire Department has had a LUCAS device for a year and a half. Loretto firefighters already have brought back to life at least two victims of sudden cardiac arrest while using a LUCAS. Successful use of the device in Loretto has added to the excitement of the new acquisition in Hamel.
LUCAS devices already are part of tool kits for ambulance services, including Allina and North Memorial. In the western suburbs, police and fire departments often are first on the scene for medical calls, such as sudden cardiac arrest. “If police and fire departments arrive before the ambulance, the quicker they can get things going, the better,” Belland said, adding that minutes count.
He was on hand to witness Loretto emergency responders bringing back to life a victim of sudden cardiac arrest using a LUCAS device. “This is a valuable, proven tool. It saves lives,” he said.
A LUCAS device now is on board rescue vehicles for at least three area fire departments — Hamel, Loretto and Maple Plain. The Loretto Fire Department serves Medina, Loretto, Corcoran and surrounding communities. The Hamel Fire Department serves a large chunk of Medina. Maple Plain firefighters serve Independence and Medina, as well as Maple Plain.
The three fire departments have decided that purchase of a LUCAS device is worth the investment of something like $16,000 to $17,000, the price of a new compact car. And the LUCAS device is much smaller than a car.
It took a team effort for the Hamel Fire Department to get funds for purchasing a LUCAS 2. The team consisted of the Hamel Lions, the city of Medina, the Olesky family and the fire department. Physio-Control Company, manufacturer and supplier of the LUCAS 2 device, helped the fire department with an affordable price tag.
“Even if a LUCAS device saves one life in 10 years of service, it’s worth it (the purchase price),” said Hamel Firefighter Fabrizio. He said that 90 percent of victims of sudden cardiac arrest won’t make it to the hospital if they are not given rapid and consistent CPR.
Both Fabrizio and Belland explained that emergency responders get tired while doing manual CPR. This makes it difficult for them to produce a consistent depth of compression on the victim’s chest. Emergency responders need to change people and give each other a break while doing CPR. Also, responders are human, and they do things slightly differently.
Studies have shown that, for CPR to be most effective, emergency responders can’t take breaks longer than 10 seconds, Fabrizio said. The most difficult time for maintaining compression times is during loading of a victim from a bed to a gurney and from a gurney into an ambulance.
With a LUCAS device, “you don’t get sore. You don’t get tired,” he said.
“Timing of breathing is very important,” Fabrizio said. “If you breath too often for the victim, you can give him too much air. This makes chest compression less effective.”
The Hamel FD last November set as a goal the purchase of a new LUCAS device. Some of the money came from capital funds earmarked in budgets of both the fire department and the city of Medina.
“We look at where an equipment purchase would intersect with its most likely use,” Fabrizio said. For the Hamel FD’s service area in Medina, a LUCAS 2 device seemed like a good choice. Hamel FD responds to a high percentage of medical calls, compared with fire calls. Also Medina is largely residential. Eighty percent of sudden cardiac arrests occur in homes.
“It’s a very impressive machine,” said President Tim Farrell, of the Hamel Lions who donated $4,000. “We’re just thrilled that we got to be part of the purchase and could help where we could. We look at the fire department as a central part of our community. Having them be well supplied with equipment is a high priority for us. The people who volunteer deserve to be supported.”
Contact Susan Van Cleaf at [email protected]