Winter Haven Fire Department's CPR machine could drastically improve chances for survival

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If your heart stops beating, immediate CPR can double or triple your chance of walking away from a cardiac arrest. A city in Polk County, Florida is using a mechanical device that’s being called a game-changer when it comes to saving lives.

The Winter Haven Fire Department responded to 134 calls for cardiac arrest last year. It only takes five to 10 minutes without oxygen for brain damage to take hold, so quality CPR is critical.

"The national average says we should be pushing 2 inches deep at a rate of 100," explained Michael Stroud, EMS coordinator for the Winter Haven Fire Department

Those hard chest compressions replace the work of the heart, pumping blood to the brain. But it's challenging to do well; the compressions can be inconsistent and fatigue comes quickly.

That's why the city invested in a portable system that ensures consistency.

"The LUCAS device is a compression machine to do basically compressions automatically for us so that we can free up a firefighter," Stroud said. "It basically gives us one extra person on scene."

That allows medics to focus on patient care, knowing compressions are being done properly.

Since November, the department has used the LUCAS Chest Compression System on 19 cardiac arrest patients. Sadly, most people don't survive cardiac arrest. But in Winter Haven, they're seeing amazing outcomes.

"With the device, we've had close to 40% survival rate with our patients,” said Stroud. “If that number holds true at 40%, we're almost four times the national average."

Two weeks ago, the city commission gave the department the green light to purchase six additional LUCAS machines. To them, the cost is a small price to pay when lives are on the line.

"Us not giving this to the patients would be a disservice to them," Stroud said.

One LUCAS device will be kept on every truck in the fleet. Officials hope to have them out on the streets by the first week of May.