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For Karen Brandt, the recent ribbon cutting celebrating the Fuller Lodge’s first in-house defibrillator was only fitting.
“It’s an amazing feeling to think that we are finally moving forward,” Brandt said.
On June 12, 1983, Karen Brandt experienced probably the best and worst moments of her life all in one day at Fuller Lodge. Her father, Clifford Nilsson, died at her wedding reception at the Fuller Lodge those many years ago.
“Hopefully, no one else will have to experience this type of tragedy,” she added.
Brandt also told of her brother, who had a “widow maker” type of event a few years ago when a piece of artery plaque came off and got stuck in his heart, nearly killing the otherwise healthy man a few years ago. While he’s alive and perfectly fine today, it’s because he had immediate care, said Brandt.
Knowing about her story, Brandt’s friend and Rotary Club President Linda Hull started a Rotary Club campaign a few years ago to put a defibrillator in the lodge that anyone can use if someone is experiencing cardiac arrest.
“I was inspired through my friend Karen,” Hull said. “We’ve known each other for about 20 years, and when I learned that her father died here (Fuller Lodge) of a massive heart attack at her wedding reception I thought ‘that’s never going to happen again.’”
When she became president of the Rotary Club, she started her efforts in earnest in May of last year, eventually raising enough money through various Rotary Club fundraisers to purchase one of the life saving machines, which cost about $2,500.
They did not get just any defibrillator but the type that the Los Alamos National Laboratory has installed throughout its facilities.
Helping her with the project was fellow Rotarian Troy Hughes, chief of the Los Alamos Fire Department and Eric Edmonds, safety specialist with Los Alamos County.
According to Hull, once installed, the machine will be available and accessible for public use and has been modified to the point that it’s very simple to use by anyone.
“The County will be trained in the use of the defibrillator as part of their safety training, but the idea is it will be also usable by the public,” Hull said.
Hughes hopes there will be even more machines in the future.
“The more of these devices that are spread throughout our community the bigger the increase of our chances of having a good viable patient when the ambulance arrives,” said Hughes. “In the event of a cardiac arrest, the first five minutes are crucial.”
Eric Edmonds, safety specialist with the County of Los Alamos, said the machine should be able to help many people -- as soon as the lifesaving device gets approved by the county. Though the ribbon-cutting was Wednesday, county officials have yet to approve the device for public use. Though people are confident that will happen eventually, Edmonds said there’s still a process that has to be followed before anyone can use it.
“The actual way we deploy this is still to be determined,” he said. “One of the things that have to happen is we have to get a medical director on board that will review this and help us implement it. Until we get all the approvals, nothing is definite.”
Carl Gilmore, a sales representative with BoundTree Medical, helped the county and the Rotary Club choose the defibrillator.
“We are working with Eric on that, and we will solve those issues,” he said. “You want it available to the public yet at the same time we need to have a little discussion so no one will wander off with it.”
One of the reasons why Gilmore chose the specific model of defibrillator was because he said it is one of the most common and familiar types out there.
“Philips Medical (the company that makes the device) is the largest manufacturer of these in the country.” Gilmore said. “Plus, this is the model the lab has, so there are literally thousands of Los Alamos residents who are trained to use it.”