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January 21, 2004
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Device saves life of female fire victim

Device saves life of female fire victim;
Equipment can perform CPR more efficiently than emergency personnel

By Robert Airoldi, The Daily Review (Hayward, Calif.)

Fremont - A 47-year-old woman was in critical condition Monday, but alive thanks to a new device used by firefighters to resuscitate patients, fire officials said.

The woman's heart apparently stopped as a fire roared through her Warm Springs home early Monday morning.

The cause of the 2 a.m. blaze at 681 Navajo Way -- which started in the living room at the front of the two-story house -- remains under investigation, fire officials said.

Firefighters are crediting the AutoPulse Resuscitation System with helping to revive the woman, who had no pulse and was not breathing when they found her on the kitchen floor. Firefighters had no idea how long she was unconscious.

"I can count on one hand the number of saves from a patient in full cardiac arrest," said Capt. Jeffrey Youngsma, a 20-year veteran. "Now, in the past six months, I've seen this device improve those chances more than any other tool. It's revolutionary."

The department has used the device about 20 times, and at least three people have been resuscitated, he said. Emergency personnel nationwide, on average, save about 5 percent of cardiac arrest patients.

The device -- a chest belt and pump attached to a plastic backboard -- more effectively performs CPR than emergency personnel, said Roy Kniveton, director of market development and education at Revivant Corp., a Sunnyvale bio-medical company.

The woman -- whose name was withheld by firefighters -- was taken to Kaiser Hospital in Fremont, and at some time during the ride, her pulse returned.

After initial treatment, she was taken to the burn unit at St. Francis Hospital in San Francisco, where she was listed in critical condition.

The first firefighters on the scene in Fremont found the woman near a sliding glass door at the back of the house and immediately began CPR.

When an engine company with the device arrived minutes later, they strapped her to the device, which began compressing her chest about 80 times a minute.

Kniveton said preliminary evidence coming from nine agencies using the device during a year-long pilot program is showing that blood flow produced by the device is significantly greater than from manual CPR.

Manual CPR produces about 10 to 20 percent blood flow, compared to the heart. This new device can produce nearly the same level of blood flow as the heart itself, firefighters said.

Fremont -- which has had three of the devices since April -- and San Francisco are two agencies nationwide using the device, which received Food and Drug Administration approval about 18 months ago, Kniveton said.

"People are telling us that they are able to feel pulses and measure blood pressure on patients still in cardiac arrest," Kniveton said. "That just doesn't happen with manual CPR."

Once normal blood flows are re-established, the heart can be shocked into restarting if it doesn't return to a normal rhythm on its own.

In addition, proposents say, because the device never tires it frees up emergency personnel to perform other tasks, such as inserting IVs.

It took 15 firefighters 16 minutes to extinguish the blaze, which caused $300,000 in damage to the structure and $200,000 to contents. The home did have working smoke detectors, fire officials said.

There were no injuries to firefighters.

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