Porter County Sheriff's Office

What's Happening at The Porter County Sheriff's Office


Cops now trained to save heart attack victims

Portable defibrillators, used to shock a heart into a normal 
rhythm, will be in eight Sheriff's Department squad cars

VALPARAISO -- Bob Jones of Valparaiso picked a great place to have a heart attack -- the driveway at Porter Memorial Hospital.

Ken Kosky Times

There was almost no delay in shocking his heart with a defibrillator and restoring its normal rhythm. He had a second heart attack in the emergency room, but again he was saved by a defibrillator.  That was five years ago. Now, Jones walks five miles in the morning and does a one-hour fitness program in the afternoon. He enjoyed a Christmas vacation last year in Las Vegas and he continues to live life to the fullest. But if Jones would have had his heart attacks at home or around town, he would have been just another person with a 5 percent chance of survival.  In an effort to change that low success rate, the Porter County Sheriff's Office is putting portable defibrillators in eight of its squad cars and is training the officers to operate them. Because police officers sometimes beat medics and firefighters to the scene, they may be able to shock a person's heart before it's too late.  Jones said he'd love to see a defibrillator in every emergency vehicle so that help would be only a couple minutes away for all heart attack victims like himself. For every minute that passes, a person's chance of survival drops 10 percent. The plan The Sheriff's Department is the first police department in Porter County to get defibrillators. But within five years, Fred Martin wants to see all fire departments and police departments equipped. Martin, the EMS educator who is instructing the police officers, said the devices are easy to use and do a phenomenal job of saving lives. At Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, defibrillators are in place and heart attack victims there have an 80 percent survival rate. The $2,500 defibrillators Porter County police received were donated through the Porter County Operation Heartbeat Committee, said Mary Catherine Coleman of the American Heart Association. "A lot more police officers throughout the country are getting them," Coleman said. "A lot of times, the police officer is the first one on the scene. It's important they have these available. "We think it's a great idea," said Porter County Sheriff David Reynolds. "Our hope is to train and equip all our officers with these defibrillators ... seconds make a difference between whether someone will live or die. "While the Sheriff's Department is the first police agency, six fire departments in Porter County have the technology: Beverly Shores, Union Township, Valparaiso, Hebron, South Haven and Portage. Two more -- Chesterton and Kouts -- will soon be getting it. And, the Porter Memorial Hospital EMS has defibrillators. "The more out there, the better," said EMS paramedic Donna McHenry. During Monday's training session for police officers, McHenry told the officers about a police chief from outside of Porter County who didn't want his officers to have defibrillators. The chief was overruled by his boss, and later he had a heart attack and was saved by one of his officers. "Now he goes around the country and talks abut how all (police) cars should have defibrillators," McHenry said. Officer John Brubaker, one of those attending Monday's training, said he'll do anything to help the public he serves. "If any of us use it, even one time in our careers, it will be worth it," Brubaker said. Because county officers have take-home squad cars, it is possible the officers could even save a life while off-duty. It only takes a four-hour training program to operate the new automatic defibrillators. When the operator opens the device, a computer voice tells the operator to "place electrodes." It also offers other commands like "do not touch patient" and "push flashing button to rescue." In addition to getting defibrillators out in emergency vehicles, the Operation Heartbeat Committee's other goal is to educate people about defibrillators and encourage shopping center owners and others to buy units. Success stories Now recovered, Jones is enjoying the small things in life. He's a regular at Dawn's Diner and, because he retired from the Valparaiso Fire Department, he also visits the fire stations once a week. He also helps his wife, Emily, with the household chores. Even though he did not exercise regularly before his heart attack, he now does it five days a week. He's also changed to a healthy diet. But he's not the only success story. In May 1999, a week after Porter Memorial Hospital donated a portable defibrillator to the Valparaiso Fire Department, firefighters responded to a report of a woman with a heart attack. The firefighters used the device for the first time and then an ambulance arrived and medics took over. The woman, Jean Elkins of rural Valparaiso, survived. Her husband, Richard, helped by performing CPR. According to the American Heart Association, 225,000 Americans suffer full cardiac arrest each year, and 95 percent die because they do not receive immediate life saving attention. The Heart Association estimates 50,000 lives could be saved each year if public places and emergency vehicles were equipped with defibrillators. In Porter County, thanks to the latest donation of defibrillators, more people have a chance to have their stories have a happy ending.

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