The Ebbetts Pass Fire District has added another high-tech tool to its arsenal in the fight to save lives.
No longer does a human have to straddle a heart-attack victim, massaging his chest to keep oxygenated blood flowing through the body n a new automatic CPR device can now handle the task.
The machine consists of a small backboard with a wide “cuff” that comes out from either side of the panel, wrapping around the victim´s chest.
With the flip of a switch, the cuff tightens around the chest, and begins contracting the body with a steady rhythm.
The traditional method of CPR only presses down on the front of the heart, and is about one-third as effective as natural heart action, according to paramedic-firefighter Matt O´Donnell.
But the action of the automatic device provides pressure from three sides.
“This machine is more effective in squeezing the heart, creating a better blood pressure, a better pulse,” O´Donnell said.
And with other crew members pumping oxygen directly into the victim´s lungs, it means more oxygenated blood is getting to the brain, district EMS Coordinator Brian Dickson said.
“It´s like we´re moving a thimble-full (of blood), and this thing is like taking a whole water glass,” Dickson said.
Timing is still essential in treating patients with irregular or no heart rhythms.
Someone who´s been down too long without an administration of CPR has a greatly reduced chance of survival.
But if crews can get to the patient in just a few minutes, the CPR machine “is going to provide the best possible opportunity,” Dickson said.
Emergency crews administer drugs to heart-attack victims that stimulate the heart, and also block a nerve that keeps the heart from responding.
But without CPR, the medication cannot get from the vein to the heart. The new machine makes sure that more medication gets to the heart faster.
Dickson also is a captain with a fire department in Menlo Park, which recently received one of the devices on loan.
The machine revived two cardiac arrest patients while he was on duty.
In one of those cases, the man had been down for four minutes without any CPR, and had literally turned blue from the lack of oxygenated blood.
After using the automatic CPR machine and a couple of rounds of drugs, the patient revived, turning a healthy pink in the process.
“It was the most phenomenal color change I´ve ever seen,” Dickson said.
The machine has other advantages, such as freeing up one of the crew members to perform other life-saving functions, and it can be strapped along with the patient to a gurney and keep pumping the heart when transporting the patient through confined spaces or down stairs.
This is the first such device to be purchased within the five-county region of the Mountain-Valley Emergency Medical Services Agency.
The $15,000 price tag was covered by funds from the firefighters association annual raffle.
Firefighters are quick to praise the citizen residents of the greater Arnold area in supporting the extra fund-raising efforts.
“Basically, in the last few years, they bought us both our ambulances and this machine,” Dickson said.
“This is their stuff,” paramedic-firefighter Mike Grabowski said. “We´re going to treat it with the utmost respect and it´s going to be available to them 24-7.”
District crew members are in the process of demonstrating the machine to local hospitals and providing technical information to doctors before putting it into general use.
And the firefighters also emphasized the importance of early treatment before emergency crews arrive on the scene.
They urged all citizens to check with their local fire district office about CPR training, noting that early application can be critical in saving a life.
“If he receives CPR before we get there … that will really improve the chances of survival,” O´Donnell said.
Calaveras Enterprise story by Craig Koscho. For more Calaveras news, click: calaverasenterprise.com