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New Auto Pulse System A Lifesaver

The price tag is steep - $15,000 - but fundraising efforts are under way and Escalon Community Ambulance officials hope to add the 'Auto Pulse' machine to their lifesaving arsenal this year.

The system, a mechanized CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) machine, has just been put into service by the ambulance corps, which is taking part in the pilot testing program for the equipment.

"This has been approved by the FDA but the jury is still out on it," Escalon Community Ambulance Chief Mike Pitassi said. "The most important thing is that, unlike human beings, who can provide 30 to 35 percent of normal circulation during CPR compressions, the Auto Pulse provides 100 to 110 percent of normal circulation and it does it without interruption."

Pitassi said that could be the difference between life or death for someone in cardiac arrest.

It also negates the need for someone, usually a firefighter, to ride along in the ambulance to assist with CPR on the way to the hospital with a cardiac patient. That often left the fire department shorthanded while the firefighter was with the ambulance crew, so the system will benefit both departments in addition to patients.

"We're in an area where we have limited manpower," Pitassi explained. "Right now we have to drag one firefighter away to do mechanical compressions on the way to the hospital and this can be a problem, leaving them shorthanded."

With an Auto Pulse on board, ambulance crews won't need the added set of hands ... the machine will provide them.

Training is being done right now on the Auto Pulse system, Pitassi meeting periodically with the fire department crews in Escalon to introduce them to the Auto Pulse and provide demonstrations. He also will schedule training with Farmington fire crews, since that is part of ECA's coverage area.

"This is better for patient care, better for manpower," Pitassi added.

Though CPR performed by humans is also a lifesaver, Pitassi said the automated system will likely have an even higher success rate. That is something his crews will chart as they use the Auto Pulse this year.

"It does cost $15,000 and so far we've raised $5,300 towards it," Pitassi said.

Information about the Auto Pulse and a request for donations has already gone out to current Escalon Community Ambulance members but Pitassi said they are looking to other sources to help finance the purchase as well.

"Any businesses out there that want to help, we'd welcome a donation," he said.

The system just went on line, the department introducing the new piece of equipment on Jan. 15.

"We asked the county about it and they gave us permission to pilot study it," Pitassi said.

Escalon Fire Department battalion chief Randy Reid, on hand for a Thursday morning training session at the fire station, said he was convinced of the effectiveness of the Auto Pulse just by watching the demonstration and learning about its ability to provide 110 percent of normal circulation.

"If I coded, I'd rather have that machine doing CPR, chest compressions on me," he said.

The system utilizes a 'life band,' which is strapped across the patient on a special gurney and the responding emergency crews are taken through the steps of the process with prompts from the machine itself. Once the patient has been placed on the gurney and the Auto Pulse enacted, CPR is done continuously, even as the patient is being moved, and the compressions provide circulation to all vital organs. Pitassi said he is excited to have the new machine and the possibilities it offers for improved patient care.

"It is on loan to us for one year," he said. "We're part of a statewide study."

Pitassi said the department will continue to actively raise funds for the Auto Pulse because he anticipates wanting to keep it as part of their equipment once the study is complete.