Defibrillators can save lives during sudden cardiac arrest.
The McDuffie County fire department knows that fact, and thanks to a medical equipment distributor and some creative budgeting, first responders will have the life-saving automatic external defibrillators on hand when needed.
Access Cardio Systems, the manufacturer of the AEDs used by McDuffie firefighters, issued a recall on several of their products. At the same time, the company announced that it was going out of business and would no longer support their AEDs.
Those two announcements left Fire Chief Bruce Tanner out in the cold. He was losing six of his 10 AEDs -- a scary thought for those in charge of saving lives.
"Having those things in place was a big service to the community, and not being able to replace them, we wouldn't have been able to provide that service," Chief Tanner said.
But the distributor of the equipment felt it had a commitment to its customers. Matrx Medical offered another company's AED model at half price with a trade-in offer to those affected by the recall.
Chief Tanner and Assistant Chief Stephen Sewell jumped on the offer. They bought three at the end of last year and asked county commissioners for permission to adjust the fire department's 2005 budget so that three more Defibtech AEDs could be bought at $695, less than half the regular price of $1,490.
"They felt it was important that they work out something to try to help their customers out," Assistant Chief Sewell said. "I'm glad they did because regular price at almost $1,500 a piece, that is a big difference between $1,500 and $700."
"Had Matrx not come forward and done that, we probably wouldn't have gotten all six of these back in service as quickly as we have," Chief Tanner said.
The three newest AEDs should be in place sometime in February, putting the total back up to 10 in service.
The three Access Cardio Systems AEDs that were not recalled will need battery and shock pad replacements by next year. Officials said replacements for the unsupported models will be included in the fire department's 2006 budget.
"All the statistics say that survival from sudden cardiac arrest is directly dependant on early defibrillation. This will allow us to provide that to the citizens," Chief Tanner said.
AEDs are a user friendly version of the defibrillators that doctors use in hospitals. First responders are trained on the easy-to-use system in which a recorded voice walks the AED operator through shocking a patient.
Assistant Chief Sewell said first responders used the AEDs on two calls in 2004. He added that if the machines were not on all of the county's fire trucks and first responder vehicles, those two patients may have gone without needed defibrillation.