Doctors save lives. EMTs save lives. But police officers? Increasingly, the upholders of law and order are also serving as the front line for rescue as well. Police who once waited for the ambulance to arrive losing valuable time between sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) onset and lifesaving therapy. Now many officers are using CPR and automated external defibrillators (AEDs) to save lives.
Courtney Alexander, 34, of Saline, Michigan, found that out when she suffered SCA and was revived by three Hamburg Township police officers who responded to a 911 call. Alexander, the mother of three and a former All-American field hockey player for the University of Michigan, has recovered and become a staunch advocate for community AEDs.
Her save story starts on Feb. 3, 2013: Alexander was seen in the local emergency room for back pain and numbness in her arms after a day of skiing with her husband and two older children.
“They’d checked a bunch of muscular-skeletal stuff, but didn’t do any heart tests because I was young and fit and didn’t have any history of heart problems,” Alexander recalls. “They sent me on my way.”
Later that day she and her husband arrived at their babysitter’s house, Alexander suffered SCA and collapsed in the passenger seat of their car. She has no memory of what happened, but knows the story from her husband’s perspective.
“He told me he thought I’d just fainted,” she said. “But then all the color drained, and I made this sound. He said it was like when his mother was taken off life support.”
Her husband carried her into the house while the babysitter called 911.
“Luckily, the Hamburg Township police had AEDs in their patrol cars. They were able to shock me and bring me back. The EMS didn’t arrive until 5 minutes later.”
Alexander said she later learned the chances of surviving SCA decrease by 10 percent with every minute that goes by.
Alexander found out that much of the credit for her rescue belonged to the Hamburg community. After an entertainer suffered SCA at a local festival and was saved with an on-site AED, the community banded together and raised enough money to equip the township’s patrol cars with AEDs.
“I am a complete advocate for AEDs,” Alexander says. “If it weren’t for the police having AEDs, I wouldn’t be here and my kids would be motherless.
Inspired, Alexander has raised money to equip the police her own township, Pittsfield, with AEDs. She created an online GoFundMe campaign and hosted a special event at her home. Today, Pittsfield Township police have 7 Powerheart® G3s, a Powerheart G3 that is set up to serve as a training device, plus a fund that will cover maintenance and battery replacement.
“We are very satisfied with the AEDs we purchased from Cardiac Science and are very, very fortunate for Courtney’s fundraising efforts to outfit our patrol cars,” says Matthew Harshberger, Director of Public Safety/Chief of Police for Pittsfield Charter Township. “Once hearing of Courtney’s experience, and others who have been saved, it is a testament that AEDs are a crucial piece of equipment for police to have on the street and readily available when the need arises.”