Starting Hearts, VVMC partner to place AEDs
VAIL — A new partnership between Vail Valley Medical Center (VVMC) and Starting Hearts will place 50 additional automated external defibrillators (AEDs) throughout Eagle County over the next two years. The initiative, which will boost the total number of public AEDs in the community to close to 350, will also include increased awareness and education about cardiac arrest, AED training and promotion of a mobile app that pinpoints the locations of public AEDs. The goal is to make Eagle County a model community for the nation, creating safer environments for victims of sudden cardiac arrest, the nation’s leading cause of unexpected death.
“Strategically placing AEDs throughout our community, combined with education, will save lives,” said Vail Valley Medical Center’s President and CEO Doris Kirchner. “VVMC’s cardiology team and our cardiac catheterization lab are world-class, but there’s a small window of time to save the life of a cardiac arrest victim. We need to make AEDs accessible in public areas and neighborhoods, and we’re proud to partner with Starting Hearts to make Eagle County the safest place in America to suffer a cardiac arrest.”
Starting Hearts is a nonprofit organization that provides free CPR and AED education, and has installed and maintained more than 100 AEDs throughout the community. Founder Lynn Blake, a Vail resident, started the organization in 2010 after collapsing of sudden cardiac arrest at the age of 27. She happened to be across the street from the Vail Fire Department when her heart arrested. A bystander performed CPR and Vail firefighters ran across the street with an AED, and paramedics saved Blake’s life.
“We are so grateful to VVMC for supporting Starting Hearts in our mission and efforts,” said Blake. “Through a generous individual donation to VVMC’s Foundation, this partnership will help save lives and establish Eagle County as a model community for addressing America’s leading cause of death. Time is critical; without immediate intervention, the odds of survival drop dramatically with each passing minute.” said Blake.
Individuals experiencing sudden cardiac arrest have only minutes until death, unless a bystander or trained responder recognizes the symptoms and takes immediate action.
Education is another key factor, and Starting Hearts will train as many Eagle County citizens as possible in CPR/AED skills, from kindergartners to seniors. In 2015, Starting Hearts educated 2,500 residents about CPR and AED use, including 1,500 children.
“While our youngest children may not be strong enough to deliver CPR effectively, even a five-year-old can talk an adult through it,” explained Blake. “Our classes teach not only lifesaving skills, but also confidence, commitment and leadership. The idea is to create a community of citizen first responders and buy precious time while emergency responders are en route.”
Blake also encourages community members to download a free mobile app called PulsePoint to locate nearby AEDs. Starting Hearts has integrated the app with the Vail Public Safety Communication Center, providing reverse 911 alerts to nearby citizen responders to when a cardiac arrest occurs in Eagle County.
To help ensure Eagle County’s AEDs are ready when needed, Starting Hearts checks and maintains the units on a regular basis. Because the temperatures in Eagle County can affect the efficacy of outdoor AED units, Starting Hearts is in the process of transitioning all of the outdoor boxes to heated units.
“The partnership between VVMC and Starting Hearts helps ensure the ongoing safety of our community and visitors now and into the future,” said Blake. “We share a commitment to making AEDs widely available in Eagle County, to educating our community and to continuing the fight for life in the face of sudden cardiac arrest.”
According to the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation, approximately 326,200 Americans of all ages experience sudden cardiac arrest each year and nine out of 10 victims die. The severity of a sudden cardiac arrest makes the prompt action of bystanders and the availability of AEDs critical to a victim’s survival.