Defibrillator at Trinity ready with trained operators

"Mary Vaughan, a registered nurse and a parish nurse at Trinity Lutheran, shows that the AED is small, light and easily portable.Jon Jensen/staff photoIf there's a large public meeting in Freeland, there's a good chance it's at Trinity Lutheran Church.If someone at one of those meetings has a heart attack, there's a good chance they'll be aided right there by a high-tech life-saving device and the people trained to use it.The church, on Highway 525, has been given an automatic heart defibrilator, a device that monitors a patient's heartbeat through two electrodes and can electrically shock the heart if it decides that's appropriate.It tells you what to do and how to do it, said Mary Vaughan, a registered nurse and one of two parish nurses at Trinity.About the size of a notebook, the automated external defibrillator, or AED, is intended to be used in conjunction with standard cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and it won't let the user shock someone whose heart doesn't need it.Having the church obtain the device and training members of the congregation to use it was the idea of Vaughan and the other parish nurse, Shari Scholl. While the parish nurse program is more involved in health education than direct care, the large number of people who spend time in the church's buildings each week convinced the nurses that they needed to be prepared for a cardiac emergency.Another factor in that decision was the death in February of 46-year-old Steve Schrecengost, a member of Trinity Lutheran's congregation who had a heart attack on a golf course. His death prompted many in the community to think about having defibrillation equipment close by. When the parish nurses approached his wife, Cris, she didn't hesitate.I think someone said something to me about it a week after Steve's death, and I said OK, Schrecengost said.She was concerned that the equipment would be so complex that even after it was obtained it would be difficult to use. She is pleased that this unit gives both voice prompts and printed instructions on a video screen.The AED at Trinity is the Lifepak 500 model made by Medtronic, a Seattle company. It was chosen by Trinity Lutheran because it's compatible with those carried in emergency vehicles on Whidbey, Vaughan said. You just unplug the leads from your machine and they plug them in to theirs, she said.That's among the reasons Fire District 3 will be purchasing six of those machines in the coming year. Darin Reid, captain of special services for FD3, said the district's present machines are 10 years old and have maintenance problems, particularly with batteries.The Medtronic units, Reid said, have everything the Fire District was looking for. They're easy to use, lightweight, and low-maintenance. The models cost about $3,200 each. The district's present defibrillators are a little larger than a typical briefcase and require frequent recharging of batteries, Reid explained.He was pleased that the parish nurses asked the Fire District about what type of equipment to buy because they will be fully compatible. Even though ambulance crews cover all of Whidbey Island, he said, the District encourages businesses and groups to obtain AEDs and undergo the training to use them. There's a lot of distance between places on South Whidbey, and we've had a number of 'saves' from those, Reid said. The value of machines that provide quick defibrillation of a heart that needs it was cited in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. That publication reported two studies confirming that defibrillation shortly after a heart attack, even by minimally trained people, reduces deaths.One study showed 74 percent of casino patrons survived when they were treated by casino employees within three minutes, and the other survey found that among 13 passengers who were defibrillated on one airline's planes, 40 percent had no significant heart damage.While the AED at Trinity Lutheran is easy to use, there is some training required. Vaughan coordinated the volunteer training at Trinity, which is the American Heart Association's HeartSaver program. Taught in a four-hour session, it emphasizes using CPR initially and letting the device monitor the patient's heart. Trainers at Trinity Lutheran include Bill Merritt of Issaquah, who sold the AED to the church, and Pat Johnson, a member of the congregation who is an airline cabin attendant and was involved in training airline employees to use an AED.To show how the AED works, Vaughan began by just pointing at the handle, where a small video screen displayed the letters OK. That, she explained, is the five-year battery doing its daily self-check.The device gathers information from the patient through two pads, each about the size of a hand. Wires from each come together at a common plug, which attaches to the device. Drawings on the pads show where to attach them to the patient's chest.If you don't put the leads in the right place, it still works, Vaughan said. The AED monitors the patient's heart and instructs its user aloud and on the video screen.It tells you what to do and how to do it, Vaughan said. If there's no pulse, it will say, 'Shock not advised. Continue CPR.'Each minute it takes a few seconds to re-analyze the patient's heart. At that point it announces, Stop CPR. Analyzing now.Vaughan explained that the heart should be shocked only when its rhythm is out of sync, a situation called ventricular fibrillation. It is undetectable when taking a person's pulse, but the AED can detect it and will then announce that a shock is advised.The AED computer also stores the information collected from the patient, and that data can be transferred to a hospital by telephone.Vaughan said the American Heart Association recognizes the value of the AED in conjunction with the traditional method. CPR saves lives, but they realized the gap between someone using CPR and having a defibrillator in the early stages of a heart attack. "

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