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Equipped to save lives (with video)

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Nathan Roy of the Stevens County Ambulance Association talks to Hancock City Officials about thee city's new automatic external defibrillator, or AED, equipment. The city has installed the AED in the community center. Rae Yost/Stevens County Times2 / 2

When a heart attack happens outside the hospital, the chances of surviving in Stevens County are better than the national average, said Nathan Roy, a paramedic and emergency management services education coordinator with the Stevens County Ambulance Service.

"Stevens County has a 40 percent survival rate for cardiac arrest," Roy said of heart attacks that happen outside of a hospital. The national surival average is 7 percent for cardiac arrests outside a hospital, Roy said.

The ambulance service has a role in the county's good survival rate but a small machine being placed with increased frequency in businesses, public places and churches across the county also has a big role, Roy said.

Machines that are making a difference in the county are automatic external defibrillators, or AEDs,

which can be operated by non-emergency responders. Defibrillators provide a shock which is intended to start the heart beating. These defibrillators come with instructions that a would-be operator can follow when a heart attack happens, Roy said.

"Our bread and butter is high intensity (incidents)," Roy said of the ambulance service. But even with its quick response, minutes matter to a person having a heart attack, he said.

Roy has been helping public officials and others in the county with training on how to recognize the signs of a cardiac event and simple steps to respond.

"The biggest thing is we want the community (to know) 'Hey you can do this,'" Roy said.

Roy recently trained the Hancock City Council on signs of a cardiac arrest and how to respond using a defibrillator.

Hancock bought a $1,500 AED with the help of a $750 grant from Center Point Energy, said city clerk Jodi Bedel.

The defibrillator is in the community center which is inside the city building which houses the center, library and city clerk's office.

The community center was the logical location "because of all the different people that use it and all the different groups that use it," Bedel said.

The center is also open during the day so that surrounding businesses could use the defibrillator if needed, Bedel said.

Buddies Bar and Grill in Hancock has had one for at least a year, manager Nicole Binffeld said.

Binffeld said the machine provides a sense of comfort because they know it's there if needed.

"It's defininitely a good idea to have one," Binffeld said.

A group called Papa's Angels is raising money to buy defibrillators at locations in the county. Papa's Angels is made up of the family of Steve Larson of Donnelly who died of a heart attack in 2016.

An October event raised enough money to buy three new machines and replaced the pads on a donated machine, said Audrey Larson of Papa's Angels.

The machines will be placed at Trinity Lutheran Church in Alberta, the American Legion in Morris and Kongsvinger Church in Donnelly, Larson said.

"To get them out the county is a good thing," said Algene Larson, Steve Larson's mother.

"It blows my mind," Audrey Larson said of the financial support Papa's Angels has received. "I hope they never get used." But it's good to know they are available if needed, she said.

When defibrillators are placed, training typically follows.

Roy conducted the training for Hancock city officials.

City officials learned how to use the defibrillator but also about how to recognize the signs of a heart attack.

"As far as those (cardiac) situations I do feel it was helpful go through it step by step," Bedel said.

Those signs are:

• Not breathing

• Breathing is abnormal

• The person is unresponsive

The first response is to call 911 and, then, work with CPR and the defibrillator, Roy said.

Those steps mean the victim receives treatment quickly.

"For every minute without CPR there is a 7 to 10 percent reduction in survivability," Roy said.

For an adult, CPR is about chest compressions to the beat to the the Bee Gees' song "Staying Alive." A responder should compress the chest to the beat of "Ah, Ah, Ah, Stayin' Alive, Stayin' Alive. Ah, Ah, Ah, Stayin' Alive, Stayin Alive." For adults and teens, hand only compressions to the chest are most important, Roy said. Those compressions should be hard and fast.

Responders should grab the available defibrillator and follow the instructions, Roy said. "Turn it on and follow the prompts," Roy said.

The defibrillators are user-friendly, he said. The machine dictates the actions. If the victim is having a seizure instead of a heart attack, the machine will not send the shock, Roy said.

The most difficult task in responding to a cardiac arrest with CPR and a defibrillator may be overcoming one's own anxiousness, Roy said.

"Instead of being paralyzed, take a deep breath and know you can help," Roy said.