Marching to the Beat

People shouldn’t wait for a heart to stop to save lives. Too many times, however, this is the case. HeartSaver, an organization of the Deaconess Foundation and The Heart Hospital, is attempting to change that.

HeartSaver strives to place automated external defibrillators, or AEDs, throughout the Tri-State. AEDs are portable electronic devices that use electric therapy to stop lethal cardiac arrhythmias and allow the heart to re-establish a normal rhythm.

Teaming with The Heart Hospital at Deaconess Gateway in Newburgh, Indiana, and the Deaconess Foundation, HeartSaver fundraises for, purchases, and places AEDs. Its board members also believe educating people about the device is just as important.

“As we place them, whatever the organization is, we make sure they are committed to checking it twice a year and replacing the battery whenever needed,” says Becky Malotte, HeartSaver board member and executive director and chief nurse officer at The Heart Hospital. “We want to make sure they’re maintained.”

When opened, the AEDs have a voice that walks users through the process, which does not continue until the current step has been completed. The AEDs also can tell if only standard CPR is needed, rather than electric therapy. This allows users to correctly judge the situation before medics arrive.

“Just because you go down, that doesn’t mean you have a clogged artery,” says Malotte. “You may just have an electrical problem.”

Every organization that receives an AED is taught how to use them because HeartSaver wants to inform beneficiaries, rather than scare them. Children have used these devices to save lives.

“We want to make sure they’re trained and comfortable with the machine because it can be intimidating at times,” says HeartSaver board member Mark Moore, who also is the annual and planned giving officer for the Deaconess Foundation.

Among many other locations, a new AED was recently placed at Swonder Ice Arena. The purchase and placement was made possible through the charitable efforts of The Diamond Galleria from designer jewelry sold during hosted events, where they provide drinks and hors d’oeuvres to fundraise for HeartSaver.

Managing partners Tyna and Bert Wheat believe in helping local charities and liked what HeartSaver was about.

“We’re a new store,” says Tyna. “It’s part of our dream to give back to the community in a meaningful way, and supporting HeartSaver gives us this opportunity. And HeartSaver also is a new organization, so it is a good fit.”

The Wheats began their involvement by talking with HeartSaver board member Penny Goshert about how to best participate. Their discussions led to the creation of a specifically designed pendant, which was launched in Febraury. It is now available as a necklace, bracelet, or earrings, and some are set with
diamonds. Most importantly, 10 percent of the proceeds from the sale of this special jewelry are donated to HeartSaver.

The Diamond Galleria has a goal of sponsoring five AED placements this year. Two are complete and plans for more are underway.

“We’re working closely with them,” says Bert. “We want to support this wonderful cause.”

HeartSaver already has exceeded its goal of placing 25 AEDs in the community this year. While 23 are finished, 22 more are funded and scheduled for assignment after July 1. For its efforts, HeartSaver won the Outstanding Innovation award this year presented by Leadership Evansville. Every organization that receives an AED is considered part of the HeartSaver family and its board members are always looking to add to it.

“We’re not going to be satisfied until every location that needs an AED has one,” says HeartSaver Chairperson Kirsten Wagmeister. “We want to know where they’re needed.”
One of the future locations could be The Diamond Galleria itself. The store averages around 125 people for each event, which is plenty to warrant having an AED on location.

“I’d like to see an AED in every public place,” says Tyna. “We’re even considering buying one for our store. It could be the difference between life and death.”

Wagmeister knows this phenomenon all too well — her brother was saved by an AED when he collapsed in his office in 2001. Contradicting the common misconception that heart issues only are associated with older and unhealthy individuals, he was a healthy 35-year-old at the time. HeartSaver wants to educate the community about arrhythmias and their chances to affect anyone, including children.

“If there is a hard blow to the chest, like in karate or football, that can be enough to send the heart into fibrillation,” says Malotte. “It’s not just people who are 60, 70, 80 years old. This deals with our kids who are involved in physical activity.”

Wagmeister says HeartSaver is just scratching the surface on what can be accomplished, and they always are accepting donations of any size. Donors who give $1,000 can decide where they want an AED placed, as long as the location meets certain criteria. AEDs on display in public areas have been beneficial for numerous reasons.

“It’s good for the public to see where the AEDs are located (in case something happens),” says Malotte. “It also helps prompt them to think about where they might want to donate or place one.”

“We want everyone in the community to join in and help our cause,” adds Goshert, who also serves as manager for The Heart Hospital Cardiac Rehabilitation Center.

HeartSaver’s board members are planning an October event, where every penny raised will help fund AED placement. Ultimately, they want to make people aware of their cause and assure the Tri-State’s preparedness for any circumstance.

“Everyone has a heart,” says Wagmeister. “We all have the potential to be saved by one of these.”

For more information about HeartSaver, call Penny Goshert at 812-842-3472 or the Deaconess Foundation at 812-450-3359. For more information about upcoming events at The Diamond Galleria, call 812-477-1388.

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