(La Porte, IN) - This week La Porte County first responders reached a significant milestone, thanks to a few local organizations. Every police vehicle in La Porte County is now equipped with a portable AED.
The initiative started about five years ago with a partnership between Franciscan Health Michigan City, Bolt for the Heart, and the Play for Jake Foundation. 165 AEDs have been placed in La Porte County squad cars. Franciscan Health contributed $20,000 to kick-start this year’s effort. They were also the lead sponsor for the Bolt for the Heart walk/run on Oct. 14th in La Porte. 36 local businesses contributed sponsorship money, as well.
Recently, advocates reached out to remaining local police agencies to see how many more AEDs were needed. Julie West was there when they tallied the number: 26.
“Of course, that teared me up a little bit,” said West. “You know, that number, obviously, has a significance to me and to a lot of people. I feel God’s hand is in everything that we do, so it’s pretty cool that we ended up with that number. I get signs all the time from Jake, especially at times when I need it the most.”
26 was the number on the uniform of her son Jake, who died of sudden cardiac arrest on a La Porte High School practice field ten years ago.
The Play for Jake Foundation hosted a special ceremony this week at their headquarters in La Porte. The 26 AEDs were presented to the police departments of Long Beach, Trail Creek, Purdue University Northwest, Kingsford Heights, Westville, Kingsbury, Pottawatomie Park, and the City of La Porte. La Porte County is now one of only three Indiana counties with an AED in every law enforcement vehicle.
According to a spokesperson for Franciscan Health, sudden cardiac arrest kills 335,000 people without warning each year. Ninety-five percent of those victims die because CPR and defibrillation are not administered quickly enough.
In an emergency, police officers are usually the first to arrive. “As you know, law enforcement out in the field is first on the scene so often,” said La Porte Police Chief Paul Brettin. “Officers know how important this is.” According to the American Heart Association, at least 40,000 more lives per year could be saved if the first person on the scene knew CPR and applied an AED within five minutes.
West says her foundation, with the help of Franciscan Health and the Healthcare Foundation of La Porte, will now focus on building resources for maintaining all the AEDs that have been given out. She says they are looking for other ways to get AEDs into public places, so La Porte can be designated a “Heart Safe” community.