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'This machine will save lives'

Fire Chief Shannon Draper demonstrates how LUCAS could be stored on a Red Wing engine. James Clinton / Contributor1 / 3
The LUCAS is ready to be used. The band wraps around a victim's torso, allowing the plunger to conduct constant, consistent chest compressions. James Clinton / Contributor2 / 3
The LUCAS Chest Compression System, packed and ready to be moved. James Clinton / Contributor3 / 3

Fire departments tend to be known for their heavy, noticeable equipment — massive trucks, thick overcoats and bulky oxygen tanks. The Red Wing Fire Department's newest upgrade, the LUCAS Chest Compression System, breaks that mold. It fits in a school-sized backpack, and is relatively lightweight. When in use, the LUCAS is strapped to a victim's chest and administers mechanically precise compressions to individuals in cardiac arrest.

"This machine is a total game changer for fire departments," said Red Wing Fire Chief Shannon Draper. "LUCAS delivers a perfect compression every time, and maintains the exact cadence required for the best outcome."

For those familiar with CPR training, that means less humming of the Bee Gees' classic, "Stayin' Alive." For paramedics, it means being able to dedicate more time to other life-saving procedures.

"Instead of administering CPR themselves, they can equip LUCAS to the victim and administer medications, monitor a heart rate or deliver electrical shocks when necessary," explained Draper.

Perhaps most importantly though, is the impact the device will have on transporting victims. Without LUCAS, it's nearly impossible, and unsafe, for paramedics to deliver consistent, perfect compressions throughout a trip to the nearest hospital. With the device, paramedics can focus on other things.

"If the machine is working correctly, there's no reason we can't pick up someone in cardiac arrest and get them to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester," said Draper. "This machine will save lives."

The department received the device thanks to a grant from the Helmsley Charitable Trust, a nationwide foundation that focuses on public health. Unfortunately, outside support is necessary because like most medical equipment, LUCAS runs at a high price — each device costs about $17,000.

Currently, the LUCAS machine stays on a fire engine. The department does not want LUCAS on an ambulance because they want to keep the unit in Red Wing as much as possible. Of course, with more devices, that would be less of an issue.

Draper hopes to purchase another one in the near future. "I'd like to eventually have four machines, but it is cost-prohibitive," he said.

Red Wing firefighter Ron Mcrae will present on LUCAS at the City Council meeting Monday, May 8. Mcrae was responsible for training the Red Wing Fire Department on how to use the equipment.

"It takes quite a bit of coordination to apply the device smoothly and efficiently," Mcrae said. "It's a new piece of equipment. We wanted to make sure our personnel knew exactly what to do."

Mcrae explained that the device cannot be used on everyone. Specifically, children under 12 years old and very thin or frail adults cannot receive the treatment.

"It's unfortunate," Mcrae admitted. "But we need to get the right pressure for compressions. In some cases, there's really nothing we can do."

Overall, Mcrae and Draper are confident in the new machine.

"It will certainly assist us in saving every saveable life," Mcrae said. "LUCAS will make a real difference in residents' lives."