Life-saving devices donated

MAYVILLE – The Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office now has three additional semi-automated external defibrillators to place into service, thanks to an underwriting grant from Univera Healthcare. Since 2009, and including this latest donation, Univera Healthcare has underwritten the cost of 20 AEDs for the Sheriff’s Office.

“In a cardiac emergency, it’s important to have an AED within reach since the likelihood of resuscitation decreases by about 10 percent with every minute that passes,” said Art Wingerter, Univera Healthcare president. “In rural parts of our service area, including many parts of Chautauqua County, a Sheriff’s Deputy is often the first responder to a medical emergency.”

Underwriting grants from Univera Healthcare and its parent health plan have placed more than 150 AEDs into service across upstate New York, including more than three dozen AEDs with the Sheriff’s offices in Chautauqua, Wyoming and Erie counties. Univera Healthcare has an office on East Fairmount Avenue in Lakewood.

“Univera has been a wonderful partner in our agency’s AED deployment program,” said Chautauqua County Sheriff Joseph A. Gerace. “Without the generous donations made by this company, we could not have AEDs in all our patrol cars. Their donation has helped our agency better serve the citizens of Chautauqua County.”

The AED units Univera Healthcare has underwritten are state-of-the-art Philips HeartStart Defibrillators that retail for about $2,500 each. Each unit is about the size of a child’s lunchbox, and is used in cases of life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias where the heart is electrically active, but in a dysfunctional pattern that doesn’t allow it to pump and circulate blood. This abrupt loss of function is known as cardiac arrest and, if not treated within minutes, quickly leads to death.

The device is semi-automated and issues voice commands that instruct the user on how and where to connect sensor pads to the patient. The pads allow the AED to examine the electrical output from the heart and determine if the patient is in a shockable rhythm (either ventricular fibrillation or ventricular tachycardia). If the device determines a shock is warranted, it will provide instruction to the user on how to deliver the electrical charge. If the sensors don’t detect a shockable rhythm, the device will not allow a shock to be administered.

An AED delivers an electric shock through the chest to the heart that can stop an irregular rhythm and allow a normal rhythm to resume. The device also coaches the user in the proper administration of CPR, including providing a metronome beat to help the user count and time CPR chest compressions. Immediate use of an AED, in conjunction with CPR, offers a chance at survival.

For patients who present a “flat line” (the absence of any cardiac electrical activity), the AED will state that no shock is advised. For those patients, the only chance for survival is to try to establish a shockable rhythm through CPR, which is why it is imperative that CPR be carried out immediately, even prior to the arrival of an AED or medical professionals.