Janesville has one of the nation’s highest rates of cardiac arrest survival, according to American Heart Association statistics, thanks in part to something called a LUCAS machine.

Janesville Deputy Fire Chief Jim Ponkauskas said one of the biggest factors in cardiac arrest treatment is ensuring the patient has consistent chest compressions.

The LUCAS machine isn’t prone to human fatigue. The Janesville Fire Department and several others around Rock County all have the devices, which deliver pulses at a steady speed and depth to kickstart a patient’s heart.

City Manager Mark Freitag announced at last week’s city council meeting that Janesville’s cardiac arrest survival rate of 45 percent was No. 3 in the nation behind only Seattle and Tucson, Arizona.

The national average is 10 percent.

Mercyhealth Regional Medical Director James MacNeal said he informed the department at a review meeting last month. The statistics are recent numbers, compiled within the past two or three years, but do not come from a newly published report.

In Janesville, one ambulance and two fire engines are dispatched to cardiac arrest calls. The ambulance paramedics lead the call while the others set up the LUCAS machine, Ponkauskas said.

Some manual chest compressions typically are done upon arrival, but once the machine is ready, the device can deliver a superior form of CPR.

The LUCAS machines can cost about $13,000, but Mercyhealth donated some to Janesville and neighboring departments. Janesville first got them about four years ago and keeps one on each of its front-line ambulances, Ponkauskas said.

Mercyhealth helps develop response and treatment protocols in Rock and Walworth county fire departments. Ponkauskas said this ensures the treatment level is the same no matter the municipality.

The LUCAS machine is great to have, but it’s only one factor in keeping people alive, he said.

“I think it’s a big combination of the equipment we have, the technology and cardiac monitors we have, and the aggressive protocols the fire department has through our medical direction that puts us in the position we’re at,” Ponkauskas said. “It’s a constant honing in your skills by training and working out the protocols we have that puts us in the position we are today.”

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