Portable defibrillators, used to shock a heart into a normal
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
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
"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,"
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.
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
In Porter County, thanks to the latest donation of defibrillators, more
people have a chance to have their stories have a happy ending.