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Members of the Beatrice Fire and Rescue Department began training with a new CPR device Wednesday that will help increase survival rates for patients in cardiac arrest.

In April, the state of Nebraska was awarded a grant for nearly $6 million from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust in order to purchase LUCAS2 chest compression systems.

Approximately 360 devices were purchased for ambulance services and 80 for hospitals in rural Nebraska.

The distribution and usage of the first wave of 150 machines began in September.

The city of Beatrice is one of the first to obtain and use the LUCAS2 devices.

Fire Chief Brian Daake sent two members of the squad to an official training session Sept. 15 at the Nebraska Heart Institute in Lincoln.

Firefighters/paramedics Josh Hesson and Jeff Hays went to the training session, where they also received three machines.

Beatrice Fire and Rescue has five ambulances, and a machine will be in the first three ambulances sent out on calls.

“Everyone seems really excited to be able to use these,” Hesson said.

Hesson has been teaching the firefighters, first responders, EMTs and paramedics at the Beatrice Fire Department how to properly put the LUCAS2 device on a patient and use it during in-house training sessions.

“We have seen devices similar to this before,” he said. “Everyone seems comfortable with how to use it.”

The machine is an external, mechanical device that provides automated chest compressions to an adult in cardiac arrest. The machine is meant to increase the survival rates of patients who experience a heart attack.

“Our main goal is to minimize the stoppage in chest compressions to less than 20 seconds from when we start manual chest compressions to the start of the LUCAS2 machine,” Hesson said.

The machine performs 100 compressions per minute with a depth of at least two inches on each patient, the requirements for performing CPR to save a life.

“I think these are going to make a big difference for cardiac arrest cases,” Hesson said. “We are always looking to improve the survival rates for cardiac arrest patients.”

The LUCAS2 device relieves first responders, paramedics, fire and hospital personnel and provides uninterrupted chest compressions that are precise, thereby increasing the patient's survival rate.

First responders often have to fit through tight spaces or maneuver around sharp corners while moving patients, interrupting manual chest compressions.

"Anytime compressions are interfered with, the chances of survival decrease," Daake said.

By using the LUCAS2 device, the compressions will be consistent even through obstacles.

“These machines make a whole world of a difference for everyone,” firefighter Kris Law said after his training session Wednesday morning.

“If we can use this, it frees up another caregiver, giving the whole team more options,” he said.

Integration of this device will also allow responders to extend CPR time for longer, rougher drives.

“Most medical response teams in rural areas will have to drive on gravel, bumpy roads, endangering their own safety and the treatment process for the patient,” Daake said.

It’s not uncommon for the team to drive 30-60 minutes from a patient’s house to a hospital, he explained.

Beatrice received these machines along with the Lincoln jurisdiction due to the high volume of calls, Hesson said.

Last year, Beatrice Fire and Rescue responded to 122 chest pain related calls. Of those calls, 18 were for cardiac arrest.

Over the course of three days, Hesson will teach everyone at the fire station how to properly use the LUCAS2 device. Taking about an hour, he goes through a PowerPoint presentation and then a demonstration.

The firefighters take turns applying the device to a practice dummy.

“Its pretty step-by-step,” Law said. “We are all just excited to have them.”

The LUCAS2 device is a lightweight portable tool that can be carried like a backpack.

A small backboard is applied underneath the patient while the chest compressor snaps into place, fitting around the patient’s chest or sternum.

“I think this will be great for the community and is a key step to increase the survival rates,” Hesson said.

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