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Smartphone app tells you when someone nearby needs CPR; heart pumps back in service

Whatcom fire chief talks about success of ResQCPR System

Fire Chief of Whatcom County Fire District 14 Jerry DeBruin talks about his experiences with the ResQCPR System during a demonstration of the equipment on Thursday, Oct. 20, in Bellingham.
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Fire Chief of Whatcom County Fire District 14 Jerry DeBruin talks about his experiences with the ResQCPR System during a demonstration of the equipment on Thursday, Oct. 20, in Bellingham.

Whatcom County fire departments are staying at the forefront of advances in emergency care with a plunger-like device that firefighters will start using for CPR and a smartphone app that anyone who knows CPR can use to save a life.

After a nationwide study showed its effectiveness, a device called the ResQPump that helps firefighters perform better CPR now has FDA approval and is returning next year at fire departments across Whatcom County.

“The goal would be to put it on all ambulances and fire engines in Whatcom County,” said Rob Wilson, division chief of communications for Bellingham Fire Department. Wilson heads the county’s fire dispatch center and served for many years as a Bellingham firefighter-paramedic. He said dozens of the ResQPumps are being donated by their maker, Zoll Medical Corp.

Bystander CPR can have one of the biggest influences on survival with a good neurologic outcome. That’s why PulsePoint is so important.

Janice Lapsansky, quality-assurance coordinator for Whatcom County’s EMS services

In addition, Whatcom County is promoting its participation in a smartphone app called PulsePoint, which alerts users via a signal sent from dispatchers when CPR is needed nearby, Wilson said. A similar signal activates firefighters’ pagers, but there always is the chance that a bystander is closer, Wilson said.

Wilson said widespread “citizen CPR” can help save lives because early CPR moves oxygenated blood to the brain, which is key to survival following a heart attack. PulsePoint recently alerted medical professionals who saved a man after he collapsed near the University of Washington Medical Center, according to an Associated Press story on Oct. 20.

“We have a great EMS system, but we’re lacking in citizen CPR,” Wilson said. “Our goal in Whatcom County is to get 5,000 people onto the app. We now have this, and it’s ready for you to go to the app store and use it if you’re trained in CPR.”

Janice Lapsansky, quality-assurance coordinator for Whatcom County’s EMS services, said quick chest compressions and early defibrillation are critical to the survival of a heart attack patient.

“Bystander CPR can have one of the biggest influences on survival with a good neurologic outcome. That’s why PulsePoint is so important. It’s very exciting,” said Lapsansky, who also is a firefighter-EMT and a biology instructor at Western Washington University.

Wilson said he has heard stories about bystanders, mostly off-duty firefighters, using PulsePoint locally, but hasn’t been able to follow up. An initial $40,000 for PulsePoint participation was paid through grants from the Northwest Regional EMS Council, Whatcom County Fire District 7 (Ferndale), and Bellingham Fire Department. Its $8,000 annual cost will come from the dispatch center’s budget, Wilson said.

We have a great EMS system, but we’re lacking in citizen CPR.

Division Chief Rob Wilson, Bellingham Fire Department

Meanwhile, the ResQPump is essentially a plunger with two handles. It compresses the chest of a heart attack victim, but it’s most effective in the “decompression” upstroke phase of CPR, forcing the chest to expand and more blood to flow back into the heart, Wilson said.

The pump was used by Whatcom County fire departments as part of a successful national trial from 2006 to 2009, but was taken out of service awaiting FDA approval. Marvin A. Wayne, medical director for Whatcom County Medic One, was co-author of a 2011 report on the study in the medical journal The Lancet.

Also part of that medical study was an airway device called the ResQPOD, which prevents air from being drawn in while the chest is recoiling during CPR, according to Zoll’s medical literature. It also helps increase blood flow to the brain and increases survival from cardiac arrest by 25 percent or more.

Officials with the company that makes both the pump and the POD were in Whatcom County last week to train local fire department staff officers, who will in turn train the firefighter-EMTs who will use the pump once again. The POD airway device has been in use locally for several years.

Together, the pump device and the airway POD are now called the ResQCPR System.

The Bellingham Herald reporter Robert Mittendorf is a volunteer firefighter-EMT with South Whatcom Fire Authority and has used both CPR devices on patients in the field.

Robert Mittendorf: 360-756-2805, @BhamMitty

CPR app

Whatcom County fire departments participate in PulsePoint, a mobile app that alerts users when CPR is being performed nearby. If you know CPR, you could help a heart attack victim before EMS arrives.

▪  Download Pulse Point from the app store.

▪  Select “Whatcom County Fire/EMS.”

▪  Set the app to alert you for CPR in progress nearby.

▪  PulsePoint has a simple CPR reference guide and mapping to show the location of the emergency.

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