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Marengo-Liberty VFD raising funds for chest compression device

October 02, 2019
The Marengo-Liberty Volunteer Fire Department is kicking off a fund-raising effort it hopes will enable it to purchase a life-saving cardiac device. The LUCAS — Lund University Cardiopulmonary Assist System — is an automatic chest compression system. Because it's automated, the LUCAS performs chest compressions in an exact fashion with no breaks, meaning better patient outcomes.

"They make a difference; we need one," said Bilie Gilmore, secretary-treasurer for the fire department.

Katie Goldman, an EMT and member of the Leavenworth VFD, used a LUCAS when she worked for Dubois County EMS.

"I saw them work; I saw the survivability," she said.

Referring to a recent medical run, Goldman said, "The LUCAS could have managed it much more efficiently."

Goldman said performing CPR is exhausting and first responders must switch out frequently. That means a break in compressions and sometimes a very crowded and potentially dangerous situation in the back of an ambulance should the vehicle be involved in a crash.

"I've seen what it can do; it changes everything. The LUCAS device doesn't get tired, it doesn't get fatigued, it doesn't lose its balance," said Goldman. "It's quick, efficient and consistent; 100 times more than humanly possible."

Studies have found using a LUCAS results in 60% better blood flow to the brain compared to manual CPR and more than 99% of survivors had good neurological outcomes in random trials.

"It's not just getting a patient's pulse back," said Goldman, "but they're going home with little complications."

The majority of fire department runs, about 80%, are medical, with a high percentage having the potential of being cardiac-related, she said.

It can take an ambulance crew as long as an hour to reach a hospital from the county's remote areas.

Gilmore said the LUCAS will be available to help the entire county, noting when Marengo didn't have extrication equipment they relied on the other departments to lend assistance.

"It's Marengo's turn to repay all the others for helping us all those years," she said.

Cost is the major factor standing in the department's way; the LUCAS costs $16,000. Marengo-Liberty's budget was cut by $10,000 to $65,000 this year, so there is no funding on hand to go toward it. The department is planning to host a series of fundraisers and is hoping the community will be supportive.

"Each fire department could use one, and we need one on each ambulance," Gilmore said. "They're not cheap; we have to start somewhere.

"What a difference it could make," she said. "We've gotta find the money."

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