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Hubbard First Responders always there; now need help

Hubbard First Responder Mark Hellkamp tosses on his vest as he rushes to the scene of a car crash Monday night outside of Dorset. First Responders have taken combines and other modes of transportation to the scene of accidents. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

aBY Sarah smith

Last month, Hubbard First Responders prevented a near tragedy. That’s pretty much an everyday occurrence for the volunteer squad.

But as lifesavers, heroes and helpers, the squad finds it hard to reach out to others when they’re in need. First things first.

A crazy day

June 25 was a crazy day for emergency personnel. In the span of less than a half hour just before lunchtime, crews were paged for a medical call, a couple car crashes, a domestic dispute and some minor incidents.

North Memorial was dispatched three ambulances in all directions. The crashes and domestic incident were minor in comparison to what was occurring on Eagle View Golf Course.

A man on the #17 tee box was experiencing a sudden cardiac arrest, an event that kills 95 of 100 patients who don’t get immediate help within the first couple minutes, the American Heart Association says. The man’s golfing partners panicked. If they knew how to perform CPR, they forgot in the rush to get help. One started chest compressions, one ran for the clubhouse.

It was chaos. A Hubbard County dispatcher trying to keep track of all the crews going to the various calls sounded stunned when the last ambulance crew paged asked where the golf course was. They’d already gone by it and had to turn around.

Meanwhile, four separate First Responders had raced to the golf course.

“I drove my truck over the fairway,” Mike Ridlon sheepishly admitted Monday.

The First Responders quickly took over the CPR efforts that were being administered erroneously. They called for a helicopter. The chopper and ambulance crew arrived about the same time. By that time, First Responders had shocked the man three times and he was responding. The man’s foursome had retrieved an automatic external defibrillator from the resort office. No one had a clue how to work it, one of the foursome later told First Responder Jason “Bucky” Johnson.

The golfers offered a different story, saying they wereadministered CPR, three shocks, and  saved the man's life before the First Responders arrived on the scene.

The golden minutes

The golfer lived to play another round. The Heart Association raises the success rate to an astounding 85 percent, when heart attack victims are given a shock in those critical first couple minutes. So victims have a 9 out of 10 chance of dying, but an 8.5 out of 10 chance of living if they get help.

“People are scared to use the shock box,” said Richard Bilger, a Lakeport First Responder and president of Life Signs Plus, a live-saving company that trains people in using the technology that reverses the odds of failure versus success.

And he said it’s not unusual for citizens to begin chest compressions incorrectly.

“Say the Pledge of Allegiance and look where they put their hands,” Bilger said. Most people believe the heart is above the left breast, not in the center of the chest.

So in conjunction with grant funds to transform local towns into “Heart Safe Communities,” a “Saturday CPR” event is planned Sept. 14 for Park Rapids. Emergency responders say there’s probably eight to 10 minutes of air in the lungs after an initial heart attack. Bilger says the “ick factor” of giving a stranger mouth-to-mouth rescusitation prevents many people from attempting life-saving efforts.

A new school of thought is that hands-only CPR, to push hard and fast on an incapacitated person’s chest, can be as successful as any attempts to bring someone back to life. And since First Responders can get to a victim in four to five minutes with oxygen, the chest compressions are sufficient to keep that victim alive. It’s called “immediate quality CPR.”

Hands-on CPR can be learned easily in less than an hour. Along with that, citizens can learn how to operate the AEDs that many public buildings and schools are stocking in hallways.

The Sept. 14 event is designed to teach mass numbers of people life-saving technology in record time. Classes will start on the hour at 10 and 11 a.m.; 12, 1 and 2 p.m.

A new law mandates Minnesota school children learn CPR starting in 2014, Bilger said. The law requires completion of the one-hour class to get a diploma.

A federal grant is being used to purchase the AEDs for several small communities including Akeley, Nevis, Remer and Pillager.

Hubbard First Responders are leading the charge to have the county saturated with trained citizens. Federal and state “Good Samaritan laws” are in place to ward against liability for attempting to help a stranger. The sessions will be held in the First Responders building at 1100 Birch Avenue, the former home of Belle Taine Glass in Park Rapids.

The funding

It’s the funding that keeps First Responders going, even when ambulance personnel lose their way.

“We are the true sense of volunteers,” Ridlon pointed out.

Last year the Responders launched a gun calendar sales idea and the response was huge. You purchase a calendar for $40 and get the chance to win numerous guns.

“These are sporting guns,” Johnson said. “They’re shotguns and rifles, not handguns. Everybody asks us why the First Responders are getting involved in gun sales.”

Shortly after last year’s campaign wound up, Sandy Hook Elementary School was shot up by a mentally unhinged gunman. The First Responders know full well this year’s campaign is going to be an uphill challenge.

Disgruntled people who didn’t win last year say they don’t want to participate this year, Johnson has heard over and over.

The donation is tax deductible. If a winner is morally opposed to gun ownership, the vendors, Delaney’s Sports Center and Smokey Hills Outdoors Store, will give you other merchandise in the equivalent value of the weapon.

All winners must pass background checks.

“We’re not just handing guns out to anyone,” said Jared Hoefs.

But they point to the increasing need for their services as reasons to purchase a calendar. Last year the volunteer squad took 338 calls. To date in 2013, volunteers have already attended 350 calls.

To equip each volunteer costs $4,000. That doesn’t include the cost of training. Johnson said it takes a special breed of person to answer the call. Members have quit after being traumatized by a child’s death or a particularly gruesome crash.

Ideally, the squad would like an AED in each volunteer’s vehicle. Each of the members pay their own gas and leave their work to respond, Johnson said.

To purchase a calendar you can contact a squad member or the two vendors in Park Rapids. Or you can make a donation to the Birch Avenue address.

“We want to grow, be better trained and get more equipment,” Ridlon said.

And a grateful golfer and his partners can attest to the squad’s value. Four First Responders were on the golf course within minutes of the call for help. With a Sudden Cardiac Arrest event, which thousands of Minnesotans suffer every year, those golden first few minutes are literally the difference between life and death.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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