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Uninterrupted CPR

Becky Vargo • Jan 31, 2018 at 11:00 AM

Four more local fire departments will soon activate new life-saving devices purchased with a $60,000 grant from the Greatest Needs Fund of the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation. 

Representatives from the Grand Haven Department of Public Safety, Ferrysburg, Spring Lake Township and Crockery Township fire departments each went back to their stations with a new, $15,000 AutoPulse Resuscitation System following a press conference about the units Tuesday morning.

Grand Haven Township and Robinson Township fire departments are already using the devices and seeing an increase in survival rates, said Spring Lake Fire Chief Brian Sipe.

“The results of the Auto Pulse use are notable,” said Grand Haven Township Fire Chief Tom Gerencer, whose department started using one of the units in October 2014.

“The cardiac arrest save rate in Grand Haven Township for 2007 was 33% and 2017 they report 56%,” Gerencer said. “The interdiction of ALS (paramedics) in 2009 was responsible for part of the increase. However, I believe the Auto Pulse has had a significant (positive) impact.”

As an Advanced Life Support first responding agency, Grand Haven Township relies on training and technology when responding to emergency situations involving sudden cardiac arrest, Gerencer said. In addition to a quick response and manual CPR, the ability to use an AutoPulse unit can mean the difference between life and death.

“There are instances where manual CPR is not possible or effective, because of stability and/or maneuverability challenges,” Gerencer said. “The AutoPulse unit gives our staff the ability to provide consistent and uninterrupted chest compressions, within minutes of arriving on scene, until the patient is admitted to the hospital.”

Robinson Township Fire Chief Paul VanVelzen said the department has had their AutoPulse unit since July of 2016.

“The first month and half we used it four times with three saves,” VanVelzen said. The department counts it as a save if the patient makes it to the hospital and has a heart beat for at least an hour.

“Since then we've had at least three others that we considered saves,” VanVelzen said. “It's hard for us to go back and get exact numbers but I would say it increased our save rate to around 30%.”

“Seeing that got the conversation going to get this out in the rest of Northwest Ottawa County,” Sipe said.

The unit delivers high-quality, uninterrupted CPR, said Grand Haven Public Safety Director Jeff Hawke.

With the AutoPulse, CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) is delivered through a load-distributing band that squeezes the entire chest, according to EMS Territory Manager for Zoll, Adam Peterson. “The high-quality compressions drive good blood flow.” 

“It’s hard to do CPR on rough terrain” without interruption, said Hawke. And you have to stand up when you are doing CPR in an ambulance, he added. Should the ambulance stop suddenly, the first responders could be thrown and injured.

With one of these units, the machine continues the CPR while the medical attendants are close by, but safely restrained.

The Heart Rhythm Foundation reported that sudden cardiac arrest is the leading cause of death in the United States. This is an electrical disturbance in the heart that keeps it from beating properly. Anyone is at risk and there are no warning signs.

Crockery Township Assistant Fire Chief John Kriger said the AutoPulse unit will be stored on the department’s rescue truck, or whichever vehicle is the first to respond to a medical emergency. He said they plan to begin using the AutoPulse in March.

“We will use it every time for a cardiac arrest,” Kriger said. “With the limited manpower that responds, you could run it with two people instead of four or five.”

The unit is a backpack style for portability. It weighs around 35 pounds, Peterson said. It includes a solid backboard and a soft stretcher for easier maneuvering. The unit comes with two batteries, each which will hold a 45-minute charge.

The units are designed for use on adults, Peterson said.

Training will take place at each fire department.

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