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From Dick Burch, Red Cross CPR/First Aid Instructor

Dick Burch is passionate about saving lives. As a Red Cross instructor and founder of Project Heartbeat in Wallowa County, Oregon, he wants as many people as possible to learn how to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and use an automated external defibrillator (AED), because he knows they work. Of the estimated 300,000 to 400,000 Americans who die of sudden cardiac arrest each year, more than a quarter could be saved with CPR/AED. And it’s not that hard to learn how.

The Red Cross offers CPR classes throughout the region, and Project Heartbeat alone has trained more than 1,200 “lay responders” to handle an AED—portable devices that deliver an electric shock that can restore the heart’s normal rhythm.

Dick helped start Project Heartbeat in Wallowa County due to the area’s remoteness. “Many people are more than an hour’s response time from a hospital,” he says. “And when it comes to cardiac arrest, the ones who survive are those who get help fast.” The project’s goal is to have an AED within three to five minutes of the majority of people in the county.

So far they’ve placed AEDs in 49 locations including senior centers, churches, and businesses, Dick says. “We’ve also purchased portable AEDs that our high school teams can take to games on the road.”

Project Heartbeat has received major funding from the Wildhorse Foundation as well as grants from Rotary and St. Luke’s AED program, which has purchased or helped purchase more than 100 community AEDs throughout the region.

St. Luke’s also provides medical oversight and safety inspections for 76 AEDs in the Treasure Valley at locations such as schools, senior centers, homeless shelters, YMCAs, and Bogus Basin Ski Resort. “The AEDs are responsible for saving one or two lives a year,” says program director Pat Lara. “That’s a very rewarding investment.”

What is sudden cardiac arrest?

Sudden cardiac arrest happens when an electrical malfunction in the heart causes an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia). The heart stops beating and the person loses consciousness. The person will die if the heart is not restarted quickly. This is different from a heart attack, which happens when blood flow to the heart is blocked.

Give from the heart.

You can give a gift to help place AEDs in your community through St. Luke’s Heart Safe Community AED Program. Thanks to individual donors, corporate donors like Micron, and charitable donors like St. Luke’s Auxiliary, we’ve purchased or helped purchase more than 100 community AEDs. Please contact us if you’d like to help purchase AEDs to place in community schools, senior centers, and other organizations. Visit us online to donate or email [email protected]. Every gift makes a difference.

Heart Month Tip #5: Learn CPR and how to use an AED

February 5, 2015