If going into business is good, going into a business that saves lives must be better.
Angela Eytchison displays one of the automated external defibrillators offered through Lifeservers Northwest, a new company owned by she and her husband, Robert. - The Observer/PHIL BULLOCK
Angela and Robert Eytchison of La Grande did just that recently, starting a company that deals in automated external defibrillators, those electronic wonders that shock a quivering human heart back to its normal rhythm, saving thousands of lives every year.
In America today, about 350,000 people die from sudden cardiac arrest annually. The American Heart Association says as many as 50,000 lives could be saved if AEDs were more widely used.
The Eytchisons hope they can play a part.
“I hope we will see AEDs in most of the schools and businesses in the area, just for public safety,” Angela said.
Angela Eytchison manages Dr. Patrick Nearing’s dental clinic in La Grande. The staff there is required to know CPR.
While taking re-certification classes from American Heart Association instructor Mike Gooderham, she became convinced an AED should be available to Nearing’s staff.
“I started looking for a top-of-the-line machine for our office,” she said.
While vacationing, she and her husband happened to meet a couple from Pennsylvania who sold AEDs for Lifeservers, a company based in Columbus, Ohio.
“The woman worked in a radiology department in a hospital, her husband a mortgage broker. They were sharing with us how prevalent AEDs are in the eastern section of the country,” Eytchison said.
That struck a resonant note with Angela, who had come to believe that AEDs should be more readily available in her own community.
The woman from Pennsylvania suggested the Eytchisons open a Lifeservers dealership to serve the Pacific Northwest. After some research, the couple decided to do just that.
In May, they traveled to Columbus and met with company officials. A partnership was born.
“We were really impressed with them,” Eytchison said. “We did our paperwork, consulted our attorney and accountant, and formed our LLC. Now it’s up to us to make contacts, and I think that’s going to be easy because everywhere you turn there’s a need.”
Sudden cardiac arrest is caused by a chaotic heart arrhythmia that can only be reversed by an electric shock. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation can keep oxygenated blood flowing to vital organs, but it doesn’t restore the heart beat. Defibrillation, within four to six minutes, is essential.
Formerly, only medical personnel were trained and equipped to perform defibrillation. In recent years, however, the AHA and other organizations have advocated training lay people in the use of AEDs. States, including Oregon, have enacted laws allowing such use.
The machines, manufactured by companies such as Defibtech, Cardiac Science and Physio-Control, guide the user through the defibrillation process. They analyze heart activity, deliver the appropriate shock, and direct CPR.
There is absolutely no arguing that AEDs save lives. Gooderham, an active figure in Union County emergency services for decades, knows the statistics and swears by them.
“In cases where CPR alone is used, the survival rate is seven to 15 percent. In one study in Seattle, that increased to 80 or even 89 percent when there was early defibrillation,” he said “It’s black and white. AEDS should be everywhere.”
But in Oregon, they are not. To date, there are no laws mandating that AEDs be kept in public places.
“It’s nothing like O’Hare Airport in Chicago where they’ve got them hanging up on the walls every 300 feet,” Gooderham said.
In Union County, AEDs for use by the lay public are scarce. Emergency personnel including emergency medical technicians, first responders and police carry them, but it’s comparatively rare to find one in a public building or a private business.
Rare also is the person who has been trained to use one, though training is available through the American Heart Association and the American Red Cross.
Eytchison said public and private entities that do have an AED program experience difficulty maintaining it.
“AEDs aren’t hanging up on the walls so you can use them like fire extinguishers,” she said. “Sometimes it happens that a company has one person trained to use it, and she keeps the AED locked away in her desk. If she doesn’t happen to be around, it’s pretty useless.”
AEDs can be purchased on the Internet, but so far as the Eytchisons know, theirs is the only company in the region offering sales and service. The closest such dealership, Angela said, is in Northern California.
Eytchison hopes she and her husband can change the local community’s outlook on AEDs. She hopes people will become more aware of the life-saving power of the machines.
“If there’s an AED on-site, a person’s chance of survival greatly increases,” she said.
For more information, contact Lifeservers Northwest at 663-9402.