by Dennis Dalman
The Save Station movement is growing by leaps and bounds in St. Joseph, with more and more people and organizations jumping aboard to get Automated External Defibrillator Save Stations set up at outdoor locations.
Recently the city of St. Joseph ordered four of the stations. When the city’s administrator, Judy Weyrens, told a friend, Audrey Twit, about the stations, Twit said she would like to buy them in memory of her beloved husband, Ken, who died Dec. 30, 2018. The stations, she said, each with a plaque with Ken’s name on it, would be a good way to memorialize Ken Twit, who was a pharmacist and a dedicated civic volunteer in St. Joseph, including serving on the city council. Those who heard about Audrey’s kindness were stunned by her generosity. The four save stations, all told, cost about $11,000.
AED Save Stations somewhat resemble thin phone booths. Each contains an automated external defibrillator (AED, for short) that can shock a heart back to life. Many lives have been saved by the use of such machines, including the life of a man who suffered a sudden cardiac arrest in St. Joseph Catholic Church years ago. The hitch, however, is that most defibrillators are kept within buildings, inaccessible outside of business hours or by people who have no clue where the machines could be found in any building. The Save Station movement is a way to make the life-saving machines easily accessible by locating them outdoors, available 24/7.
Save stations are secured boxes that can be placed in neighborhoods or other spaces. Each contains an AED that can be used right there or taken from the box to be used elsewhere in a crisis. The boxes are protected by an automatic system from hot and cold extremes of weather; each has an alarm system; and each box can automatically send an alarm to neighbors when an emergency occurs (triggered when the box is opened and defibrillator removed).
So far, there are three save stations in the area – one in Sartell, two in St. Cloud – thanks to the dedication and fundraising of a group of people. Joel Vogel of St. Joseph and Rich Feneis of Sartell got the save station ball rolling. Two of Feneis’s golfing buddies who live in St. Cloud (Jeff Skumautz and Dan Schirmers) also became gung-ho about the stations and raised money to buy them for their neighborhoods. CentraCare Health System was very supportive in the effort. Its foundation has a $30,000 grant available for the purchase of AEDs. A neighborhood, city or company will get a free AED and CPR/AED training if they raise funds for an outdoor save station. Also on board is the Greater St. Cloud Safety Foundation.
The three stations, installed about a year ago, are the first of their kind in Minnesota.
Soon, others joined the effort for more save stations. They include Audrey Twit; the Lions clubs, churches, the city council, scouting groups, longtime St. Joseph teacher Betty Pundsack and Stearns County Sheriff Steve Soyka – to name just some.
AED advocates all emphasize that knowledge is power, and the more people learn about heart problems, CPR and AEDs the more lives will be saved. Even children should be taught CPR and how to use an AED, they advise.
The basic difference between sudden cardiac arrest and a heart attack is when the heart stops in an instant due to a kind of electrical seizure. A heart attack, on the other hand, is caused usually by some kind of blockage in an artery when the heart does not get enough oxygen. Many who suffer heart attacks have time to get emergency treatment. That is not true with those who suffer cardiac arrest, which is so sudden that unless someone else is present to help, death is virtually certain. AEDs can also be used when people are suffering heart attacks, as well as sudden cardiac arrests.
About 360,000 people die of cardiac arrest each year, and 80 percent of them happen at home. Only about 8 percent of them survive. However, if CPR and/or AEDs are used, the survival rate is 70 percent.
Starting in early June, Feneis began meeting with many businesses and organizations to enlist their support for the ongoing save-station movement.
Feneis said he is always struck by how word-of-mouth is making save stations so well known, despite their few sites in the area. Recently, a man from the Richmond chain-of-lakes area came to Feneis’s house to do some cabinetry work. When Feneis mentioned save stations, the man’s interest was instantly piqued.
“That is exactly what we need in the Richmond area,” he told Feneis.
Feneis predicted St. Joseph would have 10 to 12 save stations in the near future and possibly as many as 100 in the general area in a year or two. At this point, he knows that one of the four save stations ordered will be installed outside the St. Joseph Catholic Church or outside of the St. Joseph American Legion Club.
There are several following goals that go hand-in-hand with the installation of save stations, Feneis noted, along with Stearns County Sheriff Steve Soyka:
• To take an inventory and update the existing AEDs in Minnesota and where they’re located, which means the ones that are not in outdoor Save Stations.
• To create citizen awareness of the locations of each save station that will be constructed.
• To start a program of volunteers who will check for outdated batteries and chest pads on the AEDs.
• To educate the public on the use and the importance of AEDs and AED Save Stations.