Fire Dept.’s Cardiac Gear Gets a Jolt

Shortly before noon on Oct. 11, a call came in to the San Marino Fire Department about an electrical shock injury, causing several of the first responders to spring into action.
Firefighter Jeff Tsay, who had just wrapped up a demonstration of the department’s brand-new Zoll X-Series Monitor Defibrillator, packed up the cutting-edge piece of equipment and joined his brethren.
“That’s going to be on this monitor for sure,” he said.
The X-Series, to hear Tsay extoll its virtues, is the “newest and greatest” cardiac monitor on the market. The device allows firefighters to more precisely diagnose cardio-related ailments on patients in the field and relay the information to the nearest hospitals. SMFD recently activated its new device to full service after around two months of working in field practice for the $45,000 machine.
“It’s like a car,” Tsay quipped. “You could probably get two or three cars for this.”
The monitor has proven far more useful to Tsay and his colleagues than any car, however. When hooked up, the X-Series can give real-time readings on heart rate and breathing rate. It can noninvasively detect oxygen and carbon monoxide levels in one’s bloodstream. It can detect whether the patient needs to be shocked to bring his or her heart back into rhythm and will administer the proper level at the press of a button.
A month ago, Tsay and his colleagues made use of its ability to evaluate how effective their chest compressions are. The patient had collapsed while working at a construction site. The team of six responding firefighters each took turns administering chest compressions to bring the patient’s heart back online, following the monitor’s guidelines.
After 55 minutes — well beyond the typical threshold for calling time of death — the patient’s heart rate was recovered and he was even breathing on his own by the time he was brought to Huntington Hospital. The staff at Huntington thanked the firefighters with a round of applause.
“Hopefully we save some lives with it,” said SMFD Chief Mario Rueda. “Fires are infrequent events in San Marino. Heart attacks aren’t. We have an aging population here.”
San Marino’s firefighters are all trained paramedics, greatly increasing their effectiveness as first responders. This device only enhances their ability to accurately measure doses of emergency drugs that need to be used and also appropriately call for preparation of cardiac surgical teams at the nearby hospital.
“This really is an all-in-one machine,” Tsay said. “Once we see that the guy’s having an actual heart attack, we’re actually able to transmit that data directly to the hospital. The doctor, the cardiac surgeon can actually see what we’re seeing in the field. Before, we had to call and just kind of describe it.”
SMFD has the new monitor in its frontline ambulance but plans to add one annually until all four of its vehicles have them. Zoll maintains a “buy back” program for its older devices so it may repurpose them for other entities, Tsay explained.

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