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Firefighters Receive Life-Saving Gift

Feb. 4, 2009 — Firefighters received ten automated defibrillators from the St. Croix Foundation Wednesday, an acquisition that – statistically – will literally save lives.
Cher Will headed up the foundation project to raise money and buy the devices, and she presented them to firefighters at a ceremony in the V.I. Cardiac Center Wednesday morning.
Will began her quest to get defibrillators into the fire houses after an individual had a heart attack at the St. Croix Yacht Club and the ambulance took 55 minutes to arrive, she said. Fire fighters arrived first, but had no defibrillator and no training even if someone else could have provided one.
"After that, we got a defibrillator and CPR kit and threw it in the back of the car," she said. The heart attack victim survived and has recovered.
Getting the defibrillators into the hands of those most likely to arrive first at the scene of a heart attack means more heart attack victims will survive, Will said.
"When there is a cardiac arrest, with the timely application of a defibrillator, you have survival rates as high as 49 to 74 percent," she said. "With CPR alone, even done perfectly, the rate is much lower and goes down with every passing minute … Ladies and gentleman, this will save lives."
Fire Services was chosen for the first phase of this project because it is often first to arrive at the scene of an emergency and there are fewer fire houses and trucks than there are police cars. Will wants to equip the police next, she said.
Lola Christian, supervisor of cardiology services at Juan Luis, worked with Will in the fundraising effort. On Jan. 20, they held a combination fundraiser and St. Croix inaugural ball for President Barack Obama.
St. Croix Administrator Pedro "Pete" Encarnacion was on hand to express appreciation for the valuable donation.
"This provides us with the type of equipment needed to save lives," he said. "It will simply help the fire fighters help you when they go out to a scene."
Firefighters themselves may benefit too, he said. "Often, its only after a fire when an officer sits down to rest that he starts having trouble, after the stress and breathing in toxic smoke."
Next, the administration must work with the Legislature to get defibrillators into the police cars, Encarnacion said.
"The police are the first to respond to almost everything," he said.
St. Croix Rescue is in the process of training firemen to use the defibrillators, Will said. The type being given are called "automatic external defibrillators" (AEDs) and their use is straightforward, she said.
"All you do is turn it on and it tells you what to do," she said. "And it cannot shock you unless you need a shock. To set it up, put the battery in. That's it." There is a child's key to lower the voltage for use on a small child she said.
"You can be sure we will make use of this equipment," said Deputy Fire Chief Angel Torres. "The new AEDs will aid in providing medical services to the community."

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