Tuesday, September 21, 1999

Defibrillators will
save many more
lives, police say

By Harold Morse


An electric shock device just coming on line with the Honolulu Police Department saved Police Chief Lee Donohue's life.

It promises to save many more lives, police say.

"This saved the chief's life," said Dr. Craig Thomas, as he was leaving a news conference on the defibrillator used on Donohue, 57, after he collapsed at a police training competition Saturday because of an irregular heart beat.

Thomas, an emergency physician and medical director for the Honolulu Fire and Police departments, said earlier the machine does the lifesaving, not people.

Prerequisites for use call for an unconscious victim, no breathing and no pulse.

Police Sgt. Mark Ward, training coordinator on use of the defibrillator, demonstrated its use yesterday. The machine talks, giving a user directions.

"As a police officer, I'm happy we have this tool," Ward said.

"Training started this morning (Monday). ... We've been trying to implement this program since April," he added.

"What happened on Saturday had nothing to do with the training. Initially, we'll have 98 officers trained to use the machine. ... The money that was given us to purchase the first 100 machines was appropriated by the City Council and that was $250,000."

It's anticipated the purchase of 100 more machines will come through use of asset forfeiture money, Ward said.

Thomas said perhaps 1,000 people a year on Oahu have cardiac arrests.

"Probably close to half of them are in a rhythm that could be shocked (to survive)," he said.

Proper procedure is to call 911 and administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation until help arrives, Thomas said. "That (CPR) doubles the survival rate because it keeps blood going to the brain while the heart's not beating."

Timely defibrillator use will save 200 more lives a year on Oahu, Thomas predicted. Some 30 or 40 of the estimated 1,000 victims are saved now, he said.

Donohue was in satisfactory condition in Queen's Hospital.

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