Defibrillator coalition works to strengthen 'chain of survival'
WILLMAR -- The automated external defibrillator hanging on the wall at the Kandi Bowl is a long-lasting memento of Roger Lippert's heart attack. On Jan. 15, 2007, Lippert, 75, collapsed while bowling. The last thing he remembers is feeling nauseated.
WILLMAR -- The automated external defibrillator hanging on the wall at the Kandi Bowl is a long-lasting memento of Roger Lippert's heart attack.
On Jan. 15, 2007, Lippert, 75, collapsed while bowling. The last thing he remembers is feeling nauseated.
Keith Pattison, manager of the Kandi Entertainment Center and an emergency medical technician with the Willmar Ambulance, remembers what happened next.
"He wasn't breathing and had no heartbeat," Pattison recalled.
Someone called 911 for an ambulance. Pattison started CPR on Lippert.
When the paramedics arrived, they hustled their defibrillator into the bowling alley, where Lippert lay on the floor.
"We gave him one quick shock and we got his heart going," Pattison said. "He was talking by the time he got to the hospital."
Members of a countywide defibrillator coalition hope that more people -- especially businesses and public places such as churches -- will draw a lesson from Lippert's story and invest in a defibrillator.
"Ultimately our goal is to have an AED in every business and church in the county that wants to do so. It's a lofty goal, but we're on the way to getting it done," said Brad Hanson, operations manager for the Willmar Ambulance Service.
Experts view it as a key link in the chain of survival for sudden cardiac arrest.
About 1,000 people experience sudden cardiac arrest in the United States each day. Even with cardiopulmonary resuscitation, many do not survive.
These odds get significantly better, however, with early access to defibrillation -- an electric shock that restores the heart's normal rhythm.
Survival rates can increase to 50 percent or better if defibrillation can be applied within the first three minutes, said Stacey "Ace" Bonnema, communications director for the Kandiyohi County Sheriff's Office.
"The AED dramatically increases the chances," he said.
Hence the push by the defibrillator coalition to increase the number of automated defibrillators in local stores, churches and other public places.
"You have that golden time before you lose brain function. Every minute counts," said Jo DeBruycker of Affiliated Community Medical Centers. "No matter how good our ambulance is, there's no way they can get there within two minutes."
Automated defibrillators are simple enough for the lay person to use, explained Kim Lindahl, deputy director for Kandiyohi County Emergency Management.
As soon as the device is activated, an automated voice will coach the user step by step, she said.
"Anyone can do it," she said.
Coalition members are finding a receptive audience to their message. This past year the group helped buy 33 defibrillators for local businesses and churches. Through its membership in the Initial Life Support Foundation, it's able to buy the devices at a discounted price of $1,000 to $1,300.
"We didn't know it was going to take off as well as it did. We've got orders coming in almost daily," Hanson said.
Increasingly, the coalition also is becoming a community resource for training the public in how to use a defibrillator and how to respond when there's a cardiac emergency.
"I think part of it is getting people comfortable with the idea that it's OK to grab that defibrillator," said Bev Hartzburg, emergency medical services coordinator at Ridgewater College.
Panic and denial are still common responses from laypeople, coalition members said. It's rare for an ambulance crew to arrive at the scene of a cardiac arrest and find bystanders administering CPR, Hanson said.
An educated public, however, is an empowered public, DeBruycker said.
"We're the grassroots here," she said. "It's that early access. It's having a defibrillator. It's still important that people know how to do CPR. You have to dial 911. All three steps are important if you want to provide the best chance of survival."
After his heart attack a year ago Lippert was stabilized at Rice Memorial Hospital, then flown to St. Cloud Hospital where he had two coronary stents put in.
He's now doing fine and continues to go bowling almost every week.
The experience left him so grateful that he decided to make a gift to the Kandi Bowl of an automated defibrillator. The device, purchased through the defibrillator coalition, was installed in December and training provided for all of the bowling alley's managers.
"I was just lucky. I was very lucky," Lippert said. "I'll never forget that day."