AMESBURY — It goes without saying that when someone is having a heart attack, a few seconds can mean the difference between life or death. That point was clearly driven home last September when a police officer used a portable defibrillator to help revive a local man who collapsed while playing golf at the Amesbury Country Club.
Police officer Jason Kooken's cruiser was one of three in the department equipped with the lifesaving device that essentially shocks the heart into resuming its normal rhythm. But very soon the number of portable defibrillators in the department will double thanks to the generosity of The Provident Bank and the Newburyport Five Cents Savings Bank, which will be donating $4,000 later today for that purpose.
Portable defibrillators have been a standard piece of equipment in Amesbury police cruisers for more than four years, as they are in an increasing number of police departments across the country. The first three defibrillators were also acquired through the generosity of the same two banks that gave the department funds back in 2007. Defibrillators are also located inside the School Street police station, and every member of the department, including support staff, is trained and retrained yearly in their use.
Amesbury police Chief Mark Gagnon said after the September incident, he approached the two banks about perhaps donating additional funds to help the department purchase more units.
"It was only the luck of the draw that the closest cruiser had a portable defibrillator in it," Gagnon said.
Gagnon added he was very grateful to the banks for stepping up again to help his department, illustrating once again the strong partnership the banks have with the community in general.
"This is certainly an example of that," Gagnon said.
The units, which should arrive by February, will be stored inside a police supervisor vehicle, while another will be placed inside another line cruiser. The third will remain in a backpack and taken to the Amesbury Days block party, the town's evening of fireworks and other community-wide events, according to Gagnon.
Since their incorporation, Amesbury police officers have used the devices to save several lives. Before last September's dramatic rescue, the most recent lifesaving incident took place in March 2011 and was conducted by officer Michael Purvis.
"September's incident proved just how vital defibrillators can be in preventing fatalities in life or death situations: in this case, the survivor is the husband of an employee at The Provident Bank, so this hit us very close to home," said Charlie Cullen, The Provident Bank president and chief executive officer. "We are pleased to partner with the Newburyport Five Cents Savings Bank to support the great work of our local police officers in protecting the public's well-being."
In an emotional ceremony inside the Amesbury Police Department weeks after the September incident, heart attack victim Rick Campbell and his family met with Kooken and Amesbury resident David Butler, who was the first person to approach him after he fell unconscious on the seventh hole.
Butler, an X-ray technician at Anna Jaques Hospital in Newburyport, was about 450 yards away when he heard someone yelling to call 911. Once Butler reached Campbell, he started CPR and got him breathing on three separate occasions. He continued CPR until Kooken arrived in his cruiser, grabbing a portable defibrillator and a bag mask valve used to administer air. Amesbury paramedics arrived at the scene within minutes and took over for Kooken and Butler, eventually transporting Campbell to Anna Jaques Hospital.
There are an estimated 365,000 cases of sudden cardiac arrest each year in the United States, and law enforcement officers are often the first responders on site during a cardiac emergency. The Amesbury Police Department recognizes that effectively administering a heart defibrillator as soon as possible, usually before emergency medical personnel arrive, can greatly increase a victim's chance of survival.
"This is a perfect example of how working together makes a difference in our community," said Gagnon.
Jan Morse, Newburyport Five Cents Savings Bank president and chief executive officer, said, "The combined support of the Newburyport Five Cents Savings Bank and The Provident Bank, a properly trained police officer, and the quick action of a citizen all teamed up to play an important role in saving this life. Adding three additional automated external defibrillators to the police force will only help to increase the chance of cardiac emergency survival."