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Machine helps Island EMTs save lives

BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO LUCAS at work on a dummy inside one of Shelter Island’s ambulances. The machine is able to apply steady chest compressions while EMTs attend to other lifesaving medical procedures. EMS director Detective Sergeant Jack Thilberg (standing) and Mark Kanarvogel demostrated the automated CPR machine Friday.

BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO
LUCAS at work on a dummy inside one of Shelter Island’s ambulances. The machine is able to apply steady chest compressions while EMTs attend to other lifesaving medical procedures. EMS director Detective Sergeant Jack Thilberg (standing) and Mark Kanarvogel demostrated the automated CPR machine Friday.

You’ve seen it on TV — an emergency medical technician jumping up on a gurney administering dramatic chest compressions to a passed out person.

Now Shelter Island Emergency Medical Technicians have a tool to more effectively and efficiently administer those compressions.

Meet the LUCAS Chest Compression System, equipment that can do what humans can’t — consistently provide steady compressions even while a patient is being moved from home to ambulance to hospital.

LUCAS frees up EMTS to monitor other vital signs, administer medicine and carry out life saving procedures without an interruption of compressions that could cost a life.

Prior to LUCAS, EMT Mark Kanarvogel recalled one rescue effort when he was kneeling on a gurney applying chest compressions as it rolled along a wooded path. When the gurney struck uneven ground he fell off.

LUCAS is lightweight, fits in a backpack and takes about a minute and a half to two minutes to set up, Mr. Kanarvogel said.

Once the patient is lying on the gurney with a back support board, the unit can be easily attached and programmed to do either steady compressions or 30 compressions a minute and then allow two breaths before administering another 30 compressions.

It can be adapted to fit patients of different sizes by using a blanket or towel to boost those who are small. Its battery is good for about 45 minutes and can easily be popped out and replaced if it’s needed longer, Mr. Kanarvogel said.

Another advantage of using Lucas is that working in tight space within an ambulance it leaves more room for EMTs to carry out other procedures, not having to be hindered by someone administering CPR, he said. The only downside seems to be money. Lucas costs about $17,000 and ideally, Shelter Island Emergency Medical Services would like to have three units — one for each ambulance.

One LUCAS was purchased about a year ago and, thanks to an approximately $15,000 contribution to the Shelter Island Ambulance Foundation from the Shelter Island Cricket Club, a second was brought on line.

The town took over the ambulance corps from the Red Cross as of January 1, 2012, and provides a budget to pay Detective Sergeant Jack Thilberg’s salary to serve as director and to buy supplies, equipment, vehicles, gasoline and training expenses.

The approximately 25 volunteers who serve get no pay and must not only respond to emergency calls, but put in many hours of training, including continuing education courses. That ensures that those administering emergency care are familiar with changing  procedures and equipment, Mr. Kanarvogel said. Some of that training is done inhouse, some online and some at courses up Island and even upstate.
Det. Sgt. Thilberg said this might be one of the safest places to be for a medical emergency, both because of the equipment and quality of volunteers.

Shelter Island has been involved in pilot programs for some cutting edge equipment, he said.

When a particularly expensive piece of equipment is needed, it either has to be budgeted over time or purchased through contributions to the Shelter Island Ambulance Foundation.

Some make contributions after an incident in which they or a family member benefitted from the services of the volunteers. Others, like the Shelter Island Cricket Club, hold special annual events to benefit the foundation.

Contributions made payable to the Shelter Island Ambulance Foundation should be mailed to P.O. Box 547, Shelter Island, New York 11964.

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