Area News | Home | Marketplace | Community

Return to Archived Stories

Paynesville Press - June 23, 2004

Life-saving defribrillators added to police car, schools

By Bonnie Jo Hanson

In the event of a heart attack, the quick use of a defribrillator could make the difference between life and death. In Paynesville, defribrillators - devices that deliver an electronic shock to the heart to stabilize its rhythm during trauma - are getting closer to where they may be needed.

Recently, the Paynesville Police Department added a defribrillator to its squad car, and more defribrillators will soon be available for emergencies at the Paynesville Area Schools, thanks to a group of concerned residents.

defibulator crew Every day in the United States, more than 1,200 people die from cardiac arrests before they can make it to a hospital, according to the American Heart Association. Knowing that every minute counts during a heart attack, police chief Kent Kortlever decided his department needed a defribrillator after responding to an emergency call involving a heart attack victim several months ago.

Pictured from the left, Dave Schutz, Margie Schutz, Alice McColley, and Darcey Alstead, are friends who (along with Dr. Heidi Malling) raised funds to place easy-to-use defribrillators in the Paynesville Area Schools.

Since police officers - who are already on duty - are usually the first responder to medical calls (ambulance members must first report to the ambulance hall then to the emergency site), having a unit on hand could only work to the victim's advantage, Kortlever said. Now the police department carries the $2,000 unit - which was paid by a Stearns County grant - during patrol, and all police officers are trained to use it.

Making defribrillators easily available to the public was also Darcy Alstead's goal when she and four others organized to raise money to place defribrillators in places where people gather.

Two months ago, Alstead, Dr. Heidi Malling, Alice McColley, Dave Schutz, and Margie Schutz - all members of the Paynesville Arrea Ambulance - began a campaign to raise money to purchase defribrillators and place them in Paynesville Area Schools. From their ambulance service, this quintet knew the value of having a defibrillator closer to where it might be needed, though they organized their fundraising on their own, not part of the ambulance corps.

Soon, easy-to-use defribrillators will arrive at the elementary school and at the high school. These two devices will be available in case of a cardiac emergency during school, during sporting events, or during any other activities at the school buildings.

The group hopes to raise more funds for additional defribrillators. A second defibrillator could be destined for the high school, and another to the Paynesville Area Center if the funds can be raised.

Having defribrillators at the schools made sense, said Alstead. Besides students and teachers, parents, grandparents, and other members of the community frequently gather at the schools and heart attacks are not uncommon at large gatherings, said McColley. Recently, a defribrillator was used to revive a grandparent during a ball game at a St. Cloud school, added Alstead.

Todd Burlingame, the incoming superintendent for Paynesville Area Schools, likes the idea of having the devices available during sporting events and during events at the PAHS auditorium. He agreed to see to the maintenance of the units at the schools, to make the units available to coaches and event sponsors, and to ensure that the school staff is trained in using the units, though extensive training will not be necessary, said Burlingame.

The defribrillators at the schools are so easy to use that an average sixth grader can master it in just over one minute, said Alstead. Once turned on, the defibrillator talks the user through the steps. The machine determines if a shock is needed, and it also walks the user through the steps of administering CPR until help arrives.

The first defribrillator, which will be placed in the elementary school, was purchased by the group with a grant from Stearns County. A second, to be placed in the high school, was donated by the Paynesville American Legion. The group has begun making appeals for a third, which would also go to the high school.

The group was going to stop once a third unit was purchased, but they decided that three may not be enough, said Alstead. The group would also like to place a defribrillator at the Paynesville Area Center.

Middle-aged men aren't the only people who have heart attacks, said Alstead. Defribrillators can be needed because of drownings, drug overdoses, or because of congenital heart defects, added McColley. Eventually the group would like to see them at churches, grocery stores, and anywhere people gather. The group is accepting donations from the public to purchase additional units and recently named their organization the Paynesville Area Defribrillator Systems. To make a donation, call Alstead at 320-243-3853, the Schutzes at 320-243-3503, or McColley at 320-243-4878.

Contact the author at   •   Return to News Menu

Home | Marketplace | Community