Rural ambulance services obtain life-saving technology - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Rural ambulance services obtain life-saving technology

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Every second counts for a paramedic.

A life-saving device being added to rural ambulance services in parts of Eastern Iowa is built around utilizing every one of those vital seconds and, in rural Washington County, time is of the essence.

Washington County Ambulance Service is among one of the many new departments who now have their hands on a LUCAS 3, a chest compression device. All ambulances in the county now have one of the devices, as well as the emergency room in the Washington County Hospital.

Trips to the hospital can sometimes take over a half hour, which means paramedics have to keep CPR going for an extensive amount of time on a patient experiencing sudden cardiac arrest. The LUCAS device delivers 102, uninterrupted, chest compressions per minute. 

"It doesn't stop. EMTs get tired. We stop. We slow down. Our compressions aren't as good as what they (were) when we first started," Washington County Ambulance Director, Richard Young, said.

Not only does the device free up EMTs, but it means compressions don't have to stop while the EMTs take turns administrating.  This is important because, when it comes to sudden cardiac arrest, every second is crucial.

"Time is muscle, as we say. When the heart's not beating and blood isn't circulating through the body, blood is not going through the brain or the rest of the organs. The organs are dying because of lack of oxygen," Young said. "Once you stop compressions, that blood stops flowing, so you're not getting oxygen to the vital organs."

Washington County EMT, Jordan Heyvaert, said it also helps keep the compressions going while loading a patient into the ambulance, something that normally they would have to stop.

"We have a self-loading cot here, so it takes about 90 seconds to actually load somebody in the truck. If we didn't have this device, that would be 90 seconds that we wouldn't be able to do compressions," Heyvaert said. 

Young said the device isn't only good for the patient but for medical responders, too. He said it makes ambulance rides safer for the workers because where they would normally be standing while doing compressions, they can now sit next to the gurney. 

Washington County put the devices into service on November 16. So far, they haven't had a medical call where they've needed to use it.

Johnson County Ambulance Services has had the devices for close to two years now. Many of the departments that received them this year were in rural counties. A grant from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust covered each of the devices, which cost over $15,000.

Larger counties, including Black Hawk, Linn, and Dubuque, expect to receive the LUCAS devices next year.

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