Making Coon Rapids a heart safe community

A project by the Coon Rapids Police Department to have Coon Rapids certified as an American Heart Association Heart Safe community has received the support of the Coon Rapids City Council.

Kay Ludwig
Kay Ludwig

Bryan Platz, a Coon Rapids Police officer, is spearheading the effort and made a presentation to the council Feb. 5.

Presentations were also made by two victims of sudden cardiac arrest who survived thanks to the prompt use of CPR (cardio pulmonary resuscitation) and AEDs (automated external defibrillators).

And the council was told how an officer responding to a sudden cardiac arrest situation earlier that day  had been able to save a life through the use of CPR and the AED in her squad car.

According to Platz, there is no timeline for submitting an application to the American Heart Association to become a heart safe community.

But there are certain criteria that have to be met, among them having 17 AEDs placed in Coon Rapids businesses, having a specific number of people trained in CPR and AED use, both based on population, and scheduling public events, Platz said in an interview following the meeting.

There are 14 people in the community currently trained to be CPR and AED trainers, he said.

The volunteer trainers include Platz, Dan Freiberg, Nik Oman, Brianna Johnson, Bill Johnson and John Stahnke, police officers; Jeramie Bresnahan, Kim Faddler, Renae Connoy and Nick House, firefighters; Ken Boelter, retired firefighter; Mendoza, resident/paramedic; Craig Scott, Coon Rapids Ice Center manager; and Ryan Gunderson, city recreation coordinator.

That number will be expanded as volunteers come forward, Platz said.

Teddy Okerstrom
Teddy Okerstrom

As part of the heart safe certification process three training programs are being launched in the community, two at businesses and one at a church/school, according to Platz.

One is a partnership with Life Time Fitness to offer CPR/AED training sessions to its customers; all staff members at the Coon Rapids Life Time Fitness are trained in their use and the facility comes equipped with an AED, Platz said.

In addition, all staff at Epiphany Church/School, including clergy and teachers, will be trained in CPR and AED use and the facility has an AED, he said.

And a training program is also being set up for staff at Broadway Pizza in Coon Rapids, although the restaurant does not yet have an AED, Platz said.

“Free classes will be offered to the community and businesses in compression-only CPR and how to use AEDs,” he said.

All 20 police squads are now equipped with AEDs – 19 them funded through the department budget and one from a donation by the Coon Rapids Kiwanis Club – and all officers have been trained in the use of AEDs and compression CPR.

For many years, the Coon Rapids Fire Department engines and trucks have had AEDs and firefighters are trained in their use as well as CPR.

As part of the heart safe community effort, the police department is encouraging local businesses to place AEDs in their establishments, Platz said.

The retail cost of an AED is about $2,400, according to Coon Rapids Police Chief Brad Wise.

“Police and fire respond to hundreds of cardiac emergencies a year in retail establishments and in the event of sudden cardiac arrest, hands-on CPR and the use of an AED increases a person’s survival rate to about 85 percent in the first two minutes,” Platz said.

If members of the community are trained in CPR and the use of an AED, this will provide critical minutes for survival of victims until and arrival of emergency services, according to Platz.

“As we grow, we will be training the public to become trainers themselves,” Platz said.

In fact, it was a sudden cardiac arrest incident this past summer in which Platz’s uncle was the victim and survived thanks to the work of first responders using CPR and the availability of an AED that prompted Platz to launch the effort to make Coon Rapids a heart safe community, he said.

“There are over 300,000 deaths in the U.S. each year from sudden cardiac arrest and 4,000 in Minnesota, Platz said.

And speaking in support of the heart safe communities were two people who had survived sudden cardiac arrest incidents. One was Kay Ludwig, 64, Anoka, a registered nurse and a wife with four children and 11 grandchildren.

According to Ludwig, a visit to her doctor led the doctor to schedule her for an ultrasound at Suburban Imaging to investigate a possible gall bladder problem, but when she went to Suburban Imaging Dec. 5, 2012, she started feeling dizzy on the table “and was gone.”

Fortunately, staff at Suburban Imaging immediately began CPR and an AED in the facility was used to get her heart beating again normally, Ludwig said.

“I felt that I had just fallen asleep and had a beautiful dream,” she said.

“I am thankful to God that there was an AED and people there who knew how to use it otherwise I would not be alive today.”

Two months after the sudden cardiac arrest incident, Ludwig said she feels fine.

Teddy Okerstrom, Plymouth, was 16 when he suffered sudden cardiac arrest during summer conditioning with his high school football team in the summer of 2009.

Okerstrom collapsed without warning on the field, but three coaches and a teammate immediately sprang into action performing CPR and racing to the school to fetch the AED from the building.

They got him breathing again and he has been fine since, leading a normal life, including playing basketball, Okerstrom said.

The day of the council meeting, Feb. 5, the police department had what Officer Pat Morris called “its first save” with a newly-installed AED in her squad car.

Just before 5 p.m., Morris responded to a 911 call about a 30-year-old woman not breathing in a vehicle on the 10300 block of Hanson Boulevard. Her five-year-old daughter was with her in the vehicle.

According to Morris, she arrived within a minute of the call, found the woman not breathing and with no pulse. She removed her from the vehicle, placed her on the ground, started CPR and told the woman’s husband, who had called 911, to get the AED from her squad car.

Members of the fire department arrived and while Morris continued CPR, the firefighters hooked up the AED and used it to get the woman breathing again, Morris said.

The woman was taken to Mercy Hospital, but was going to be all right, she said.

According to the Coon Rapids Police report, the husband told police that his wife and daughter left to go shopping, but when he called his wife a few minutes later, his daughter answered the cell phone and said they were still in the parking lot of the apartment where they lived and “mommy was sleeping in the car.”

When he ran out of the apartment building, the husband found the car still running and his wife not responsive, the police report states.

The husband told police that his wife had seen a doctor recently for an irregular heartbeat.

Paul Mendoza, a longtime Coon Rapids resident, a paramedic by profession and a member of the Coon Rapids Kiwanis Club, also spoke to the council about the importance of having AEDs in public places in Coon Rapids, especially businesses, and that by becoming a heart safe community, the city could strengthen what the American Heart Association calls the “chain of survival.”

In his job, Mendoza said he has been called to over 200 sudden cardiac arrests and seen the effectiveness of CPR and AEDs and the training of people in their use to save lives.

“Volunteers will train people in the city in using CPR and AEDs at no charge,” he said.

There is no other city in Anoka County that has the heart safe community designation, according to Platz .

In becoming the first, Coon Rapids could provide the impetus for other Anoka County cities to become heart safe communities, Platz said.

Councilmember Jerry Koch said he “totally believed in this” and asked how the council could help.

Encourage businesses in the city to have an AED installed in their facility and have employees trained in its use to “keep customers safe,” Platz said. “It makes no sense not to do it,” he said.