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Saving victims of sudden cardiac arrest

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Operation Heartbeat places AEDs across rural Adams County

Elizabeth Klinger
Elizabeth Klinger of York Springs received free CPR and AED response training through WellSpan’s Operation Heartbeat program.

At the 2008 Gettysburg Battle Remembrance Day parade, the director of a volunteer fife and drum corps suffered a massive heart attack.

Thanks to a community-wide initiative to put automated external defibrillator (AED) units in all Adams County police cars, the Gettysburg Borough Police provided theirs and a bystander administered CPR.  The briefcase-size device went to work, analyzing his erratic heartbeat and delivering its lifesaving shock. Fortunately, the patient survived and eventually underwent triple bypass surgery.

Each year, more than 350,000 Americans suffer the same experience. Less than 10 percent survive.

An AED can make all the difference. It sends an electric shock to the victim’s heart to restore a normal rhythm.

“An AED’s shock to the heart—when applied within six minutes after the event—significantly increases a person’s chance of survival,” said Deb Sheets, RN.

Sheets is the coordinator of WellSpan’s Operation Heartbeat, which places AEDs across rural Adams County. Operation Heartbeat AEDs can be found in a variety of public spaces, and inside every police cruiser in the county.

“In many emergencies, police officers arrive on the scene first,” Sheets explained. “So we’re placing AEDs in patrol cars and making sure the officers are trained to use them.

At least five other people have been saved with Operation Heartbeat AEDs since the program’s inception in 2001.

“When one of our AEDs saves a life, we recognize the law enforcement officer or community member who played a part in that save,” said Kevin Alvarnaz, the director of community health improvement.

Carroll Valley police officer Clifford J. Weikert received WellSpan’s LifeSaver Award in August 2013 for successfully using an AED.

Recently, Operation Heartbeat replaced its 70 aging AEDs with brand new units—and added a dozen new ones—thanks to funding from a federal grant from the Department of Health and Human Services - Office of Rural Health Policy.

Nancy Newton, the grants officer at WellSpan Philanthropy, said federal officials were impressed by public outpouring for the program.

“All of the different police departments were so supportive of this project,” Newton said.  “So were the Gettysburg Adams Chamber of Commerce and the national military park.”

The federal grant also enabled Operation Heartbeat to begin offering free CPR and AED classes to the public.

“It’s not just about placing AEDs out there in the community,” Alvarnaz said. “It’s about training lay people in AED use, so that they feel ready to respond in the case of an emergency.”

For more information or to sign up for classes, contact Alvarnaz at 851-3232.

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