West River Health Services Receives Life Saving Technology


The Helmsley Foundation is bringing innovative life saving technology to the entire state of North Dakota.


Record Editor

Through a North Dakota Department of Health grant, received from the Helmsley Foundation, all North Dakota emergency rooms and emergency services will soon be equipped with LUCAS, an automated CPR component. West River Health Services in Hettinger, recently received and began training on the cutting edge technology.

“LUCAS frees you up from administering CPR on cardiac arrest patients so you can quickly start an IV line,” said Susan Hanson, West River Health Services Paramedic.

The $3,028,933 grant supports the Foundations goal of funding projects that use information technologies to connect rural populations to specialty medical care, bring the latest medical therapies to patients in remote areas, and provide state-of-the-art training for rural hospitals and EMS personnel.  The program awards grants in the upper Midwest states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Minnesota, Iowa and Montana.

The South Dakota State Department of Health also received a grant to fund LUCAS machines in South Dakota hospitals and emergency services.

The Foundation specifically looks to assess and promote novel projects that can be scaled to advance healthcare delivery, workforce preparation and development throughout the region, with the ultimate goal of improving health outcomes.

Because rural Americans face a unique set of challenges in obtaining the care they need due to geographic isolation, LUCAS technology will be irreplaceable to emergency service personnel across the state.

Performing manual chest compression consistently is “very exhausting,” said Hanson. “You really feel it the next day.” Especially when CPR has to be performed in an ambulance for sometimes several minutes, over many miles and on gravel roads.

LUCAS weighs only 20 pounds and takes approximately 30 seconds to set up, said Hanson, which is critical for sudden cardiac arrest patients to avoid neurological damage, which occurs without proper blood flow and a steady oxygen supply to the brain and heart.

“It’s incredible how fast we can get it set up and how it helps us overcome barriers when we may not have enough people. It frees up two people to administer medication and defibrillation and provide ventilation,” she said.

Hanson said that while it varies from year to year, West River Health Services EMS sees anywhere from two to ten cardiac arrest patients a year.

The Twin Cities Minnesota EMS, has been using LUCAS for the last five years. Tim Franko, 56, of New Richmond, Wis., owes his life to the CPR technology. He was given CPR for two hours and 45 minutes, which is thought to the world’s longest extended CPR to successfully revive a patient with no heartbeat.

“It’s remarkable when you consider in this case he would have never made it to the hospital for treatment,” said Hanson. “LUCAS takes rescue medicine beyond what has ever been previously possible.”

LUCAS will fit 90 to 95 percent of the population. Extremely barrel chested patients will not fit into the component. The technology also standardizes CPR compression with exactly two inch chest compressions, which makes it not safe for use on children.

Hanson also added that the West River Health Services EMS will be starting an EMT class in mid September. The class is 100 hours of classroom and hands on training, including learning how to use LUCAS. Classes will be held one night a week and one weekend a month and are scheduled to be completed in March. Interested volunteers can get more information by calling 567-3607.

“There is a great need for volunteer EMT’s. We need to care for our community,” she said. Ambulance drivers are also needed and only required to have a valid drivers license and obtain their CPR certification which is provided by the West River Health Services EMS.