Several months after receiving an automated external defibrillator, the Brownstown Volunteer Fire Department put it to good use.

A couple of years ago, firefighters responded to an incident in which a man suffered a heart attack. The combination of using the AED and performing CPR, along with continued CPR on the way to the hospital by firefighters and ambulance personnel, helped save the man’s life.

“The gentleman ended up surviving and pulling through, and as far as I know, I think he’s doing pretty good at this point,” said J.L. McElfresh, who works full time with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department and serves as a reserve officer with the Brownstown Police Department and a captain with the Brownstown Volunteer Fire Department.

Another incident happened in Seymour, where a man collapsed with sudden cardiac arrest. A couple of Seymour police officers were close by and went to the man’s home.

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“Within three minutes, they had an AED on this gentleman, and they had defibrillated him one time, and he was awake when they put him on the cot to take him to the hospital,” said Chris Snodgrass of Lifelink AED Specialist.

Since the Seymour Jaycees started donating money three years ago to help supply Jackson County police and fire departments with AEDs, it has helped save three lives.

In that time, they have put 31 units into service — 17 to the Seymour Police Department the first year ($20,000), seven to Brownstown police and fire departments last year ($10,000), and seven to Grassy Fork, Redding, Jackson-Washington and Owen-Salt Creek volunteer fire departments and the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department this year ($10,000).

Also this year, State Bank of Medora and The Peoples Bank stepped up with donations to supply AEDs to the Medora Police Department and the Crothersville-Vernon Township Volunteer Fire Department.

It will take nearly $32,000 to buy enough AED units to equip the rest of the county’s police and fire departments. Snodgrass said he would like to accomplish that goal within a year.

“Now that people are starting to see the whole purpose behind the AEDs, they are seeing people that are alive now and talking and stuff that wouldn’t have been if there hadn’t been an AED purchased and given to their local police department or fire department,” he said.

“We want to get maximum coverage in the county because it’s not just about me or you; it’s about our friends, family members, everybody that lives in the community,” he added. “We want to make sure that everybody has a chance because, if somebody goes down in sudden cardiac arrest, every minute that goes by, your chance of survival goes down 10 percent.”

Brett Hays with the Seymour Jaycees said the group helps several local organizations and individuals each year with proceeds raised from the Fear Fair haunted house in Seymour. When the AED project came up three years ago, he said, the group knew it wanted to become involved.

“We had kind of been hunting for a charity we could stay with or something we could do every year. This fit that well,” Hays said. “We’ve saved three lives, so that’s really rewarding versus a lot of things that you do and you just don’t know if anything ever comes of it. All the folks at the Jaycees and Fear Fair believe in this. It’s a charity we believe in.”

Snodgrass entered the picture since his company is an authorized dealer for Cardiac Science brand AEDs. He had been involved with servicing AEDs at the Seymour Police Department when the Jaycees made its first donation to purchase AEDs.

It’s one of Snodgrass’ passions because he had to retire from the Seymour Fire Department after suffering from a heart arrhythmia and had to have an internal defibrillator.

“Now, my passion is bigger and greater getting these AEDs out there because, No. 1, we know they work,” he said. “There are three people that their families are grateful that these AEDs are put out in the community.”

This year’s donations provided an AED to each of three departments that didn’t have one.

“I’ve greatly discounted everything as deep as I can so that I can help us get more units out there,” he said. “We’re stretching out to get the absolute bare minimum coverage over the whole county so that we can do the greater good and make sure that we can take care of everybody in the county.”

Each kit includes a fully functional AED, a set of pediatric pads, a carrying case and an accessory kit that includes a CPR mask and scissors.

Once the AED is opened, an automated voice gives step-by-step instructions.

“I truly love this unit because it’s like there’s a coach there holding your hand and taking you through it,” Snodgrass said. “It’s going to tell you where to place your hands for CPR. It tells where to put the pads. It’s unbelievable.”

While he has never had to use an AED, McElfresh said it’s important to have one on hand.

“If you can use a piece of equipment like this and help save somebody’s life, that’s what it’s all about. There’s no better feeling than that, knowing that you were able to help save someone’s life,” he said.

“You hope you never have to use one; but when you do, you are glad you have it because it makes things so much easier,” he added. “It just gives you another tool in your arsenal to be able to use when it comes to trying to help people.”

Both McElfresh and Snodgrass said they appreciate the Jaycees starting this project. They also are happy to see other organizations and businesses jump on board, and more are welcome.

“It’s just good to see all the departments, the community come together and realize that this is something very important for the people in the community to help save a life,” McElfresh said.

“From the Seymour Jaycees’ standpoint, what their donations have done, they have changed people’s lives for the better,” Snodgrass said. “It’s a fantastic feeling when you get to experience that. Hats off to the Seymour Jaycees for starting a program and being dedicated to the community.”

At a glance

To help with the project to supply automated external defibrillators to county police and fire departments, contact J.L. McElfresh at 812-498-0858 or jmcelfresh@brownstownvfd.org.

At a glance

Why you need an automated external defibrillator

Sudden cardiac arrest will claim about 365,000 lives in North America this year. It is the leading cause of death in North America, striking about 1,000 people every day.

Thirteen percent of all workplace fatalities result from sudden cardiac arrest.

The only effective treatment for sudden cardiac arrest is a shock from a defibrillator, administered as soon as possible.

When a shock is delivered within one minute, survival rates can increase from 5 percent (waiting for emergency medical personnel to arrive) to as much as 86 percent in some cases.

The American Heart Association recommends defibrillation for sudden cardiac arrest victims within three to five minutes of collapse. EMS response time can average eight to 12 minutes.

Defibrillators improve survival rates by up to 12 times. Studies with immediate defibrillation have shown up to 60 percent survival one year after sudden cardiac arrest.

Source: Cardiac Science

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Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.