INDEPENDENCE — In 1989, a young boy who discovered his dad in cardiac arrest in the bathtub grabbed the plunger, put it on his dad’s chest and began a sort-of CPR.
It worked. The dad survived. The man needed a bypass, but couldn’t afford it and had another heart attack. His wife, remembering how well the plunger trick worked, repeated the effort to similar effect. The man survived again.
Jay Bowers, of Zoll, the maker of cardiac resuscitation devices, said that is what inspired the new CPR system, ResQ CPR. The system is comprised of a rescue pump and a device that goes on the airway. When the two work together, it has been shown to improve survival rates by nearly 50 percent, he said.
Polk County Fire District No. 1 is the first organization in Oregon to install the devices in its ambulances.
“CPR has been all about the positive side of pressure,” Bowers said. “It’s always been about the compression rate or the depth, things like that. So what we finally realized is really survival hasn’t been that good, and it’s because we haven’t addressed the vacuum side of bringing blood back to the heart.”
When someone is performing CPR, he or she is pushing blood out, but Bowers said the lungs are like a bellows.
“This device is actually a suction device that goes on the chest,” he said. “So we go from just pushing blood out ... and we’re actually sucking blood back in the heart.”
Fire Chief Ben Stange said he first heard about the rescue system when two Polk No. 1 paramedics attended the EMS World Expo in Nevada.
“This tool was at the event,” he said. “One of our medics attended a presentation and even used it on a cadaver. What caught my eye was that it has an FDA-approved indication to improve the likelihood of survival.”
Bowers said it is the only device to ever receive that kind of approval from the FDA.
“For a clinical trial to result in the FDA approving a statement like that was noteworthy for me,” Stange said. “Also, it’s not like a drug or another intervention where once you use it on a patient, there’s no going back. In this instance, if there’s a complication with the tool, we can simply defer to how we do CPR now.”
Bowers said the system is not a “silver bullet,” but rather one tool to improve outcomes and help the body help itself.
In the past four years, Polk No. 1 personnel has performed CPR on 37 patients. Of those, 18 were pronounced dead on the scene after providing treatment; eight died in the emergency room; 11 were admitted to the hospital. Stange said of those 11, eight were discharged from the hospital alive.
Bowers said the community is fortunate that Polk No. 1 made the investment in the ResQ CPR system, which cost $1,200 each, for a total of $3,600.
“It’s been called one of the biggest advances in cardiac arrest since the defibrillator, and this department is the first one in the state to use this device because they’re progressive and they want to improve their outcomes,” Bowers said. “Your citizens are fortunate, because this is the latest technology.”