Novato, Calif. police get life-saving help

By Con Garretson
The Marin Independent Journal

MARIN, Calif. 14 automated external defibrillators donated by the Novato Fire Protection District's nonprofit foundation.

The district began distributing the easy-to-use devices to local businesses last June with a goal of giving away 100 within two years. Yesterday's donation brings the total to 60, according to fire Capt. Doug McDonald, executive director of the Novato Fire Foundation.

The small, compact devices are used to provide an electronic shock to those in cardiac distress to restore a stable heart beat.

"These are really life-saving machinesand one very important link in the chain of survival," McDonald said during a brief ceremony at the district's Station 1 on Redwood Boulevard.

Fire Chief Jeff Meston said a large donation by an individual led to the creation of the foundation, which put the district in a special position to make such donations without the use of public funds. Each automated defibrillator retails for about $1,500.

"When we have police officers arrive on scene ... there's sometimes an opportunity to provide this kind of assistance to the public," Police Chief Joe Kreins said. "If we save simply just one life, I think what we're doing here is a wonderful opportunity."

The automated defibrillators provide the same controlled electronic shock as the paddles of manual defibrillators used by health care professionals to kick-start a stopped heart, but are designed for use by others through the use of embedded computer chips that analyze a patient's condition.

Thirteen police service vehicles are equipped with automated defibrillators and one more is at police headquarters at 909 Machin Ave.

All of the agency's sworn personnel have been trained to use the devices.

"The ease of use is really an asset because anybody can use it," police Lt. Jim Laveroni said. "It's really hard to make mistakes. It talks to you, which can calm you down, which is helpful because they will come into use likely under stressful circumstances."

Laveroni said police often respond to medical calls and are sometimes the first to respond. Officers are prepared to start cardio pulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, but need a second officer to initiate the kind of assistance that the automated defibrillator will now allow them to do by themselves, he said.

To date, McDonald said none of the automated defibrillators distributed through the district effort have been used other than in a training situation. However, the importance of civilian life-saving training was reinforced in an emotional exchange between two Novato women at yesterday's ceremony.

Kym Ferrari was finishing a hike when she came across Mary Ellen Trainor, who had been jogging behind Portal Publications on Alameda del Prado April 9.

Trainor, 58, had quickly gone from flush to unconscious and then turned blue.

Two other people had come to her assistance when Ferrari stepped in and performed CPR until firefighters arrived a short time later. Ferrari called on the training she received when she worked for Fireman's Fund Insurance.

"It was very serious," Trainor said. "I almost died that day. I was close to dying."

It turned out that Trainor, a mother of three, has Brugada syndrome, which causes an irregular heartbeat and is often a cause of sudden death among those with the rare condition. Trainor is still recovering, but said she plans to receive training on how to use a defibrillator.

She will have to look no farther then to her son, Ryan Trainor, a San Marin High School graduate, who trains people on CPR and defibrillator techniques as a firefighter with the Northstar Fire Department near Lake Tahoe.

"We were lucky that the fire department was right there. But minutes count and they can't always be there in time, so that's why these AEDs are so important," he said.

Copyright © 2005 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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