DOVER-FOXCROFT - Emergency equipment critical to saving the lives of patients in sudden cardiac arrest are now being distributed to police and fire departments throughout the Penquis region.
Fourteen automated external defibrillators (AEDs) were delivered March 25 to Mayo Regional Hospital, funded through a $270,000 federal grant received by Maine Emergency Medical Services to purchase 178 AEDs for rural areas of the state.
"Each minute that passes after a person goes into cardiac arrest there is a 10 percent reduction in survival rate. That is why it is so important to have these devices where they are needed," said Jay Bradshaw, director of Maine EMS.
Patients in cardiac arrest experience fibrillation, a rapid contraction of the heart. The defibrillator is an electrical device that applies countershocks to the heart, through electrodes, to help restore a normal heart beat.
In 2000, former President Clinton signed into law the Rural Access to Emergency Devices Act. Written by Maine Sen. Susan Collins and Sen. Russell Feingold of Wisconsin, it puts $25 million over two years into rural areas where those first on the scene of an emergency may not be paramedics or others who might have defibrillators.
In the Penquis region, a successful grant application to Maine EMS was developed by two members of Mayo's ambulance service, Manager Brian Mullis and EMT Jacob Brooks, with input from Mayo's Heartwise cardiac rehabilitation program and the ambulance service at C.A. Dean Memorial Hospital in Greenville.
Mullis said the 14 automatic defibrillators -- each the size of a small fishing tackle box, and costing $1,300 apiece -- will be located throughout the region in police patrol cruisers and at fire departments. Five units have been distributed to the Piscataquis County Sheriff's Office, one each to police departments in Brownville, Dexter, Greenville and Milo, one to the state Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife in Greenville, and one each to fire departments in Guilford, Sangerville, Shirley and Wellington.
Hospitals in Dover-Foxcroft and Greenville, as well as all area ambulance units, already have defibrillators.
"We've now got a pretty good spread in the area. We have the defibrillators in places where there's a good likelihood they'll be used," said Mullis.
He said the automated external defibrillators are fairly simple to use, and anyone with CPR training can easily follow the voice-activated directions once the unit is turned on.
"The nice thing is that most agencies receiving a unit already have someone who is CPR-certified. We can teach people who have CPR training how to use this defibrillator in about 15 minutes. We can get some of these in service right away," he added.
Mayo EMS staff will be providing training to all AED recipients over the next two weeks.
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