Stillwater church installs lifesaving equipment

A church’s primary mission is caring for its member’s souls. Now LifeNet EMS and the Western Payne County Ambulance Trust Authority want churches and other places where adults gather to protect their lives by installing a piece of equipment that could make the difference between life and death when someone has a heart attack.

Stillwater Bible Church recently partnered with LifeNet and WPCATA to receive an automated external defibrillator to place in its building and training so church staff and members can use it to help during a cardiac event.

Cardiac arrest is something that happens all too often in the U.S., where heart disease is the leading cause of death for adults. It killed 614,348 people in 2014.

Most of those cardiac arrests take place where people with medical training aren’t immediately available.

According to the American Heart Association, more than 350,000 emergency medical services-assessed cardiac arrests happen outside of hospital settings each year. Less than 10 percent of the victims survive even though almost 25 percent of the time their hearts are in “shockable rhythms.”

Having someone who can provide early CPR to circulate oxygen to the brain and use an automated external defibrillator to get the heart pumping effectively can double survival rates.

Stillwater Bible Church Senior Pastor J.B. Bond said it’s something the church has been thinking about for a while out of concern for its membership.

“We have up to 450 people here on a Sunday morning,” he said.

The church initially approached Kelly McCauley of LifeNet EMS service to get some guidance on buying an AED unit, Bond said.

Bond was happy to learn LifeNet and WPCATA were implementing a program that could help cover the $1,700 cost to buy a Zoll AED Plus and provide training to use it.

“We were just asking about prices,” he said. “We didn’t even know that they had this program when we called.”

Bond said even though the church counts doctors and nurses among its congregation, it gives the members a sense of comfort knowing they have a tool that will enable even medical professionals to help more effectively.

One group of church members has already gone through the CPR and AED training program LifeNet is providing for recipients. The church plans to organize another class so more of its members will be prepared.

Those lifesaving skills they’re learning aren’t something everyone knows. According to the American Heart Association, 64 percent of Americans haven’t ever seen an AED, let alone had instruction in using one.

LifeNet Director of Operations Zach Harris said the service is working with WPCATA to place more AEDs in places where lots of adults congregate, like churches, community centers and other public gathering places like fairgrounds.

WPCATA, the ambulance trust authority that serves western Payne County is ordering the units while LifeNet maintains them.

Harris said any facility or organization applying to receive an AED must be willing to go through one to two hours of required training from LifeNet personnel. The participants won’t be certified in CPR when the class is over but they’ll understand how CPR and the AED work and have an opportunity for hands-on practice of skills.

The program is available to applicants located in LifeNet’s response area, which includes Stillwater, Perkins, Glencoe, Ingalls, Morrison and the rural areas in between.

Harris especially encourages churches and community centers that are further away from LifeNet’s base in Stillwater to participate in the program because people in cardiac arrest only have about five to six minutes before their heart’s failure to pump blood and deliver oxygen causes permanent brain damage. The heart is often trying to work but the muscles aren’t contracting in an organized way that moves blood through the body.

The American Heart Association reports that communities with AED programs that combine CPR and AED training have achieved survival rates of nearly 40 percent for victims of cardiac arrest.

“CPR is the No.1 thing,” Harris said. “The AED tries to take the heart out of a lethal rhythm like ventricular fibrillation or ventricular tachycardia, it targets the heart’s electrical system to reset it and get the heart pumping again. The AED is another tool.”

Organizations interested in applying for the AED program should call Kelly McCauley of LifeNet EMS at 405-707-0007.

Twitter: @mcharlesNP

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