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May 20, 2016

Fire department is first in Ill. to use new CPR devices

By Natalia Alamdari
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch

GODFREY, Ill. — The Godfrey Fire Protection District responds to at least three to four calls requiring CPR for sudden cardiac arrest every month, but even for those they reach in time, the chances of surviving more than a year are slim for most patients.

Godfrey Fire Chief Erik Kambarian hopes to change that.

The fire district is the first in Illinois and in the St. Louis area to adopt the ResQCPR system, a pod and pump combined to control air pressure in the chest and give first responders a more effective means of giving chest compressions.

“Our mission is to save lives,” Kambarian said. “When I noticed a new product that has been clinically proven to improve survival rates, it was a no-brainer.”

The system takes two rescuers to work. One holds the pod against a patient’s mouth, creating a vacuum within the chest. This increases blood flow to the brain and vital organs during chest compressions.

The other uses the pump against a patient’s chest. Like manual CPR, the responder performs chest compressions. However, the pump has a suction cup that attaches to the chest, allowing responders to lift the chest and bringing more blood into the heart.

“(On the training model,) when you push, the chest recoils because there’s a spring,” Kambarian said. “When we’re using CPR (on a human), it’s not some 18-year-old healthy person, it’s usually a middle-aged or elderly person. Their chest doesn’t recoil after so many compressions. When the chest recoils, that’s when blood is coming into the heart.”

In clinical tests, only 6 percent of cardiac arrest patients survived one year after receiving standard CPR.

“We might get a save and then three or four days later, they’ve passed,” Kambarian said. “The heart was beating, but we didn’t save the brain.”

Patients who received CPR with the ResQCPR system had a 9 percent one-year survival rate, a 49 percent improvement.

The system cannot be used on trauma patients. However, Kambarian said so far this year, it could have been used in most cases of cardiac arrest encountered by his department's first responders.

The district was able to buy two systems using funds from the Foreign Fire Insurance Board. One system costs $1,300 and includes one pump and two pods. Pods only have a one-time use. Kambarian hopes to get the funding to purchase three more sets to keep in ambulances, instead of keeping one at each fire station.

Firefighters and ambulance staff are currently being trained by representatives of ZOLL, the company that distributes the system. Hospital staff at Alton Memorial Hospital and OSF Saint Anthony’s Health Center are also being trained.

“We want to make sure patients are being taken care of from the moment they call 911 to the moment they’re discharged from the hospital,” Kambarian said.

Kambarian hopes to have the ResQCPR systems in use within a month.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service