Press-Republican

November 20, 2012

Automated CPR device helps save Plattsburgh man's life

By JEFF MEYERS
Press-Republican

---- — PLATTSBURGH — Leonard and Irene Read had just sat down to enjoy their evening dinner when life as they knew it changed in an instant.

“The next thing I knew (following that Oct. 7 meal), I woke up in the hospital weeks later,” Leonard said of the day he suffered cardiac arrest and was perched on the edge of mortality.

BROUGHT BACK TO LIFE

“He has complete amnesia (of the event and his subsequent recovery),” Irene added. “He had died; they literally brought him back to life. They were terrific, absolutely every one of them.”

Irene was referring to the Morrisonville Emergency Medical Services staff that responded to the 911 call she had placed when her husband collapsed and lay unresponsive on the dining-room floor.

“He was not breathing when we arrived,” said Renee Anderson, one of the first-responders on the scene. “His wife was doing CPR, but we took over the compressions.”

In fact, a New York State trooper was first on the scene and initiated CPR but then asked Irene if she could take over while he went out to his vehicle to retrieve an automated external defibrillator he could use to help revive Leonard, 76.

SPECIAL TECHNOLOGY

That is when the emergency-medical personnel arrived and brought with them a piece of medical equipment they had on loan from a vendor that would ultimately play a key role in saving Leonard’s life.

“This LUCAS device is an automated CPR compression machine that hooks around the patient and does compressions, freeing the emergency personnel to do other things they need to do,” said Kent Faus, captain for Morrisonville EMS.

“This particular device was on loan; we (were) hoping against hope that we’d never have to use it, but it’s available when this gentleman collapses, and it provides a valuable service for the responders.”

The LUCAS device uses a plunger that attaches to a person’s chest and pushes down as much as 100 times per minute. Just as when a human performs CPR, the LUCAS device compresses the chest on a regular tempo to continue pumping blood from the heart to the brain and other organs.

“This device provides 100 percent assistance (in CPR) and allows us to focus on other duties (such as establishing an IV for medications),” said Tyler Ashlaw of Morrisonville EMS. “It truly is an unbelievable thing to see.”

HECTIC MOMENTS

As emergency personnel were performing life-saving techniques on Leonard, they asked Irene to leave the room.

“I could hear the machine, but I didn’t realize what it was doing,” she said of those hectic moments she waited to be reunited with her lifelong partner.

After continuing with the LUCAS device and providing a pair of shocks from their automated external defibrillator, the crew acknowledged that Leonard had regained a heart rhythm. They prepared him for transport and soon had him on his way to CVPH Medical Center.

He would continue to receive life-saving support while in the hospital over the next several weeks, a majority of that time spent in an induced coma designed to prevent brain damage from his loss of blood flow.

“The people in ER and ICU (Intensive Care) at the hospital were terrific,” Irene said of Leonard’s care. “They didn’t leave him alone for those first three or four days. They put him on a respirator, lowered his body temperature and induced a coma, all to ensure he’d come out of this OK.

“It was all very nerve-wracking,” she added. “We did not know what condition he’d be in, if he would have any permanent disabilities.”

RECOVERY 

As he slowly recovered and his vitals returned to normal levels, Leonard moved onto cardiac care where he received a heart catheterization and an internal defibrillator to prevent a return of the conditions that stopped his heart from beating in the first place.

He was discharged from the hospital on Oct. 24 but had to be readmitted for three days on the 27th for some follow-up programs. His recovery is now moving along nicely, he said.

PLANS TO FUNDRAISE

“I have to thank those folks (from Morrisonville EMS),” he said. “From what my wife told me, if it hadn’t been for them getting there as fast as they did and for using that machine, I wouldn’t be here now.”

When he’s feeling a little better, Leonard said he would like to go down to the Morrisonville station and thank the responders in person.

The vendor will be recalling the LUCAS device soon, but the Morrisonville staff would like to develop some fundraising activities and search for grant funding to purchase a LUCAS device for permanent use.

“A lot of EMS professionals will never see this in their careers,” Ashlaw said of the chances to see a person walk out of the hospital without any disabilities following a complete cardiac arrest. “This was a rare one.”

Email Jeff Meyers: jmeyers@pressrepublican.com