Mercy donation buys paramedics equipment, time

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009
— An $88,500 donation from Mercy Health System is allowing Janesville paramedics to diagnose heart patients en route to the emergency room.

The hospital then can call in needed staff and prepare for the diagnosed problem, saving valuable time.

The advancements are the result of five new defibrillators with electrocardiogram capability donated to the Janesville Fire Department.

"(The equipment is) much more advanced and sophisticated," Deputy Fire Chief Gerry Luiting said. "It should catch things much more quickly, which sets in motion a chain of events that patients have much better outcomes."

The equipment went into service Jan. 23 in each of the city's ambulances and one paramedic engine. Mercy officials presented the donation to the Janesville City Council at its Monday meeting.

The new 12-lead machines are an advance over the old three-lead defibrillators, Luiting said.

The new defibrillators are used to diagnose a Code STEMI, or ST-elevation myocardial infarction, a type of heart attack caused by the sudden, total blockage of a coronary artery. It affects a large part of the heart and can distinctly be seen on an EKG.

Paramedics can look at a heart from 12 perspectives. The EKG reading is sent wirelessly to the hospital, where physicians or cardiologists can see what they'll be dealing with before the patient reaches the emergency room.

That's especially valuable on nights, weekends and holidays when staffing is lighter and on-call staff might need 20 to 25 minutes to get to the ER, Luiting said. The early triage gets patients into the cardiac catheterization lab more quickly, boosting survival rates and minimizing or eliminating permanent damage.

"Every time we shave off a minute, (it) increases the survival rate," said Dr. Michael Kellum, a Mercy board certified, emergency medicine physician who has spearheaded Code STEMI and other life-saving initiatives in Rock and Walworth counties.

One problem, however, is that statistics show only about 40 percent of such patients get to the ER by ambulance, he said. People with symptoms of a heart attack need to call 911 instead of driving in, he said.

The new machines also tell paramedics how well they're performing CPR.

"You can literally look at the machine and get instant feedback so you know if you need to push harder, slow down or go faster," Luiting said.

The machines also have see-through CPR, which allows paramedics to see the patient's base rhythm while continuing CPR, and it can monitor oxygen levels of the patient or take an automatic blood pressure reading.

"It really puts us into the cutting edge of technology in care for people," Luiting said.

Why the donation from Mercy?

Kellum is quick to say it simply: "Good medicine."

"If you're going to deliver comprehensive cardiac care, you have to have this as part of your program," he said.

Last updated: 9:54 am Thursday, December 13, 2012

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