TOWNSEND - A person was in cardiac arrest, and first responders knew they had to act fast. In a situation where most would pair up and switch off between chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth breaths, Townsend fire and EMS used a CPR machine to keep the heart going.
After hearing about the call, Ashby Fire Chief Mike Bussell went to the Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts in Fitchburg. He wanted to know how to get a CPR device for his town. Months later, the department will receive its own machine through a donation from the group.
"I never thought this moment would come," Bussell said.
Ashby is one of 14 towns from across North Central Massachusetts that will receive a LUCAS 3 CPR machine, which provides continuous chest compression and can be operated by one person.
More than 50 members from the receiving departments came to the Townsend Fire Department on Saturday morning to receive the machines and learn how to use them.
The Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts funded nine devices for fire departments west of Fitchburg - Ashburnham, Clinton, Gardner, Hubbardston, Petersham, Phillipston, Orange, Templeton and Royalston.
In the Nashoba Valley area, departments in Ashby, Devens, Dunstable, Lancaster and Shirley received LUCAS machines through a grant managed by CFNCM and the Greater Lowell Community Foundation.
Altogether, it cost about $290,000 to buy one device for the departments. "Although it's an expensive piece of equipment, what price do you put on the life of a human being?" CFNCM President Phil Grezwinski said during a presentation.
Townsend Deputy Chief Gary Shepherd, a member of the foundation's grant committee, helped identify which communities were in need of the CPR machines.
He hopes that one day the device will be come a standard piece of equipment for first responders, like the Jaws of Life hydraulic tool that is used to free people trapped inside wrecked vehicles.
The CPR machine is made by Physio Control. Crystal Perry, a representative from the manufacturer, demonstrated how to use it on a mannequin. Acurved piece that sits over the chest has a suction cup attached to it. That part clicks into a backboard.
With the click of a button, the machine lowers the cup onto the chest and begins compression. It pauses for a few seconds to allow someone to ventilate the patient.
The cup can be adjusted based on how tall the person's chest is, but not for the width of the body.
The machine can be used in wet conditions and can run for 45 minutes on a charged battery. Brian Feddersen, an EMT for the Shirley Fire Department, was one of many who stayed to test the LUCAS-3 out.
"To have our own is going to speed things up and maximize our care," he said. "After a couple of cycles (of CPR) you would be so exhausted." Feddersen, who was set to work a 24-hour shift later in the day, would be able to take the CPR machine along and use it if needed.