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September 17, 2010

Mass. fire chief: Education, defibrillators saved lives

By Ellie Oleson
The Telegram & Gazette

AUBURN, Mass. — Fire Chief William A. Whynot told selectmen Sept. 13 that the lives of 40 victims of acute heart-related problems may have been saved in Auburn since Dr. Arthur M. Pappas and his wife, Martha R. Pappas, donated 25 defibrillators to the town.

Selectman Doreen Goodrich said, "They not only made the gift, but saw to the education for this gift that keeps on giving."

Chief Whynot and Dr. Pappas gave selectmen a 45-minute progress report on the success of the defibrillators and increased cardiopulmonary resuscitation education that they have been promoting throughout town.

In 2009, the First Congregation Church requested a grant from the Auburn Foundation to buy a defibrillator. That fund had been set up by the Pappases in 2002 "to support and enrich life in our town."

Instead of funding that single defibrillator for one church, the Pappases donated 25 of the life-saving devices, so that one could be in every church and public school in town as well as in other municipal buildings.

Dr. Pappas said defibrillators and CPR across the country have "definitely improved the survival rate of those with cardiac injuries, including a number of children in school or in athletic programs."

He said that a ball striking the sternum of a child can lead to cardiac arrest, as can heart disease in anyone of any age.

Dr. Pappas said that half of those with cardiac arrest can have a "satisfactory outcome, if treated early. Within the first three to five minutes, there is a 70 percent survival rate. Beyond that, it decreases 10 percent per minute."

He said CPR should be the initial response, which requires education to ensure that a team of responders is available to perform CPR, dial 911 and use a defibrillator, if one is available.

"Our conclusion is that we should provide education programs to achieve immediate care on-site," he said.

Working with a team of town and school administrators as well as medical and public safety personnel, Dr. and Mrs. Pappas have trained town and school employees and others.

Chief Whynot said 145 employees in the schools, library, town hall, police station, senior center and fire station have been trained in CPR, with another 60 scheduled for training.

Dr. Pappas suggested that all high school juniors and seniors be trained in CPR.

Chief Whynot agreed, and said, "The American Heart Association's new standard CPR consists of chest compressions only - no mouth-to-mouth. Ventilation comes in when we arrive on scene."

After the meeting, Maryellen Brunelle, superintendent of schools, said, "With our new trimester system, this is something we might consider. We would need more mannequins for the students to work on."

Chief Whynot said, "This is a huge issue, with 450,000 lives lost annually to cardiac arrest. There is a three-minute window. By the time we arrive, it is already over three minutes. The only way to solve this is to bring the public into the treatment process."

Copyright 2010 Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Inc.

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