Group aims to bring more defibrillators to Eagle County
July 16, 2013
EAGLE COUNTY — Here's something no one wants to think about: There's a pretty good chance that someone in Vail or Beaver Creek will experience "sudden cardiac arrest" during the 2015 World Alpine Ski Championships. If it happens, that person probably won't survive.
While most of don't want to think about sudden cardiac arrest, Lynn Blake does. Blake is a survivor of the syndrome, in which a person's heart simply stops beating. Blake survived, and has dedicated her life since to trying to boost sudden cardiac arrest survival rates in the valley. Starting Hearts, a nonprofit group Blake founded, is dedicated to providing training as many people as possible in cardiopulmonary resuscitation — CPR. She's also on a mission to put as many "automated external defibrillator" — AED — devices as possible into the valley before 2015.
Training people in CPR is relatively easy, if somewhat time-consuming. Anyone can run an AED — Blake recently showed a group of preschoolers how to use one — but those devices are fairly costly. Even buying in bulk, they cost about $1,500. That cost has led to Blake's latest idea: Asking businesses to sponsor an AED that would be in either the business itself or just outside.
That sponsorship would involve more than just the cost of the unit, though. Blake said batteries, pads and other items on the devices need to be checked or replaced regularly. A sponsorship for about $3,000 would cover the cost of an AED as well as several years of maintenance, she said. That's pretty inexpensive for just about any medical device, Blake said.
While the idea is fairly new, it does have some interest.
Lourdes Ferzacca, co-owner of LaTour restaurant in Vail, is a registered nurse, and is already on a committee to help train people for possible emergencies during the championships. As someone who's familiar with AEDs, Ferzacca said she'd be interested in hearing Blake's pitch for sponsorship.
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Matt Morgan, the owner and managing partner of Sweet Basil restaurant, said he'd also be interested in hearing more about the idea.
"I'm certainly open to the conversation," Morgan said.
Bob McCleary, generally manager of Manor Vail Lodge, said he'd like to hear more about the possibility of putting AEDs into that property, but has questions about liability and how easy or difficult to use the devices are.
"I'm just not well enough informed to make a decision," McCleary said.
That's part of Starting Hearts' mission, Blake said. That's why she recently showed those preschoolers how to use an AED.
"By educating 50 percent of the people here we could save a lot of lives," Blake said.
While Starting Hearts' focus is putting more defibrillators in resort areas, Blake would also like to see the devices in neighborhoods. The idea, she said, would be to have an AED in a public place in a residential area. A call to 911 about a cardiac arrest would trigger a text message to volunteers in the area — who could get to a victim faster than an ambulance.
Again, though, the defibrillator needs to be somewhere accessible, and needs to be in good working order.
There are about 250 AEDs scattered between Vail and Dotsero now, Blake said. But it can be a challenge to find them. And, Blake said, the devices are often locked away.
"I saw one outside in Vail, but it was locked away," Blake said.
Ultimately, Blake would like AEDs to be as common as fire extinguishers — "My vision is that every witnessed (cardiac) arrest receives a response," she said. That will be a tough goal to meet, given the costs. And, to fight the possibilities of some variety of knucklehead damaging or stealing a device, Blake said she's working with a company to insure devices that are out in public.
If Starting Hearts succeeds in its efforts to spread out the costs of defibrillators and get people familiar with them, Blake said the group will be well on its way to its ultimate goal.
"I want this to be the safest place to have a cardiac arrest," she said.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2939 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.