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12-03-02: Heart help may arrive with deputies
The Daily Standard

    The Mercer County Sheriff's Office hopes an automatic external defibrillator unit, known as an AED, will soon become standard equipment in each of the sheriff's 17 cruisers as well as the Mercer County Jail.
    The sheriff's office has received the first two units, encased in red cases not much larger than a lunch box, thanks to a donation from the Mercer County Health Care Foundation. Five more will be purchased with an Ohio Public Safety grant through the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
    Defibrillation is a key to saving victims of sudden cardiac arrest, according to 911 Administrator Monte Diegel, who is spearheading the effort to obtain the equipment. It delivers a pulse of electricity capable of "jump starting" a heart that has stopped beating.
  Diegel, a certified emergency medical technician for 16 years, is a firm believer that AED units make a difference. It is not unusual for a sheriff's cruiser to arrive ahead of an ambulance at an emergency in rural Mercer County.
    "We have a wonderful Emergency Medical Services (EMS) program here in Mercer County," he said. "Our goal is not to replace but to enhance the job done by local EMS squads. Seconds count in a cardiac arrest - an emergency that can occur at any time or any place to young or old. An AED has the potential to save lives."
    The unit is virtually foolproof, according to Diegel. It assesses the patient's condition in a matter of seconds, delivering an electrical impulse only if the protocol is justified.
    "The AED won't let you make a mistake," he said.
    Plans call for all personnel, including deputies, the corrections staff and dispatchers, to be trained to use the device. The equipment also has voice prompts that guide the user each step of the way from placing two pads on the patient's chest to delivering the charge.
    The newly-acquired equipment is similar to AED units purchased by local school districts, which also recognize the life-saving capabilities. The equipment is becoming commonplace on the sidelines at athletic events, in factories and aboard commercial airplanes.
    Celina-area resident James Kittle wonders if a defibrillator might have made a difference in his daughter's case. Brandi Kittle, at the age of 22, faced a promising future - a career, marriage and family one day. Hopes and dreams were dashed Jan. 13, 2001, when her heart suddenly stopped beating.
    "Brandi spent much of the day curled up on a hide-a-bed because she didn't feel good," James Kittle recalled. "We talked to her at 9:30 p.m. and by 11 she was gone."
    Deputy Doug Timmerman, who was on routine patrol in the immediate area, responded to the 911 call. He pulled the cruiser into the driveway three to four minutes before the wail of the ambulance siren shattered the nighttime stillness.
    "The young woman was lying there unconscious and not breathing," Timmerman said. "The only thing we could do was start CPR."
    Paramedics took over upon their arrival and quickly reached for the defibrillator. Their efforts initially were rewarded with a faint pulse that quickly disappeared. Successive efforts produced no results. Their patient was pronounced dead on arrival at the local hospital emergency room.
    "I wish there had been a defibrillator in my cruiser," Timmerman said. "Seconds count in an emergency. That piece of equipment might have made a difference in this instance. I guess we'll never know for sure."
    Diegel initially contacted the Health Care Foundation about making a donation toward outfitting cruisers with AED devices. The organization, headed by President Bill Meikle, quickly responded.
    "We really felt this was something worthwhile," foundation Secretary-Treasurer Phillip Fullenkamp said. "We decided to get the ball rolling with the purchase of two units."
    The foundation is issuing a challenge to other civic organizations to come forward with similar donations. Each unit costs between $3,000 and $3,500 - a small price to pay when lives hang in the balance, according to Fullenkamp.
    Diegel received confirmation Monday that Mercer County is one of 17 Ohio counties that qualified to receive grant money. The $10,250 grant will allow the sheriff's office to acquire five units through the state's cooperative purchasing plan. An additional $1,250 will cover training costs. The eighth AED could come in January with approval of another federal grant.
    "We're nearly half way toward meeting the goal,"  he added. "The remainder sit right up there at the top of our Christmas wish list."


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