<HR><CENTER><B>'Let's Make Rock County<br> Heart Safe'</B></CENTER>

In cases of cardiac arrest, local ambulance crews and first responders are keenly aware that every second counts when trying to save a life.

For this reason, they’re launching a countywide fund-raising campaign to equip every Rock County community with automated external defibrillators.

A defibrillator saves lives by electrically shocking a pulseless heart back into a regular rhythm, but at $5,000 apiece, they’re not affordable for most small communities.

The Rock County Ambulance service already carries the equipment, but it sometimes can’t reach the scene of an emergency in time to use it.

"It takes us awhile to get to Hills, Steen or other parts of the county, and the first responders in these towns can be there in minutes," said EMT Troy Thone, who is heading up the local fund-raising campaign.

Rescue personnel without a defibrillator must rely on CPR to revive a pulseless heart, and manual resuscitation isn’t as effective as the electronic method.

The fund-raising campaign, "Let’s Make Rock County Heart Safe," is already in progress, and a fund is set up at First Farmers and Merchants Bank to accept donations.

"Our goal was to raise enough funds for six defibrillators," Thone said. "Hills already has one, so we have about $15,000 left to raise."

By committing to buying six defibrillators, the distributor has agreed to sell them for $3,000 each, rather than $5,000.

Thone said Cargill, as a community service, purchased a new defibrillator for Hills first responders earlier this summer and hopes other area businesses will be that supportive.

The fund-raising campaign will continue until enough money is raised to purchase defibrillators for all Rock County first responders and fire rescue crews. Equipment will be purchased as funds come in.

Rock County Ambulance Director Gary Holmgren said Hardwick will likely be next on the priority list and then perhaps Magnolia, Beaver Creek, Kenneth and Luverne.

It’s difficult to estimate how many lives will be saved by having defibrillators in every rural town, but Holmgren said the ambulance uses its defibrillators up to 14 times per year.

"I feel it’s really a big necessity, especially in Rock County," he said. "We’ve got an older population here more at risk for cardiac arrest."

Holmgren said for every minute a person’s heart isn’t beating, the chances of survival decrease by 10 percent.

So a person whose heart has stopped beating for five minutes has only a 50-percent chance of survival. For a person in cardiac arrest for six minutes, there’s a 60-percent chance of fatality.

Since defibrillators are easy for anyone to use, the American Heart Association and cardiologists around the world are pushing to make them available to the public in general – not just to health care professionals.

Some communities are putting them in police squad cars, apartment buildings, shopping malls and factories.

"All you do is apply the patches, push the button and step back," Holmgren said. "Anyone can do it."

The national survival rate for cardiac arrest victims is about 5 percent, but in Rochester, which has implemented defibrillators in all its fire departments and key public places, the survival rate is 55 percent.

Armed with those statistics, Thone said he hopes the community supports the fund drive. "We want Rock County to be heart safe," he said.

Donations can be mailed to First Farmers and Merchants Bank in care of the County Defibrillator Fund, P.O. Box 989, Luverne, MN 56156.

Funds have also been established in some of the communities. Residents are encouraged to contact their local fire chiefs for more information, or call Holmgren at Luverne Community Hospital, 283-2321.

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