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How to Save a Life

July 01, 2020

Thinking on his feet and saving lives are traits that come naturally to Rapid Response Team Resource RN and Paramedic Rick Barus. They have to be when seconds could mean the difference between life and death for a patient.

Rick showed these skills when he was called to a Code Blue, or cardiac arrest, for a man who was visiting his wife in the Davis Family Heart & Vascular Center. As a member of the Rapid Response Team, Rick and his colleagues are deployed to emergencies across Baystate Medical Center to help stabilize patients. Since the patient was already in the critical care unit, team members from the Rapid Response Team, Davis Family Heart & Vascular Center, Respiratory Therapy, and Cardiology decided to admit the patient and continue resuscitation. Due to the need for prolonged CPR, Rick and the EMS coordinator decided to implement the use of the Lund University Cardiopulmonary Assist System, more commonly referred to as “LUCAS.” The LUCAS is a mechanical device that performs high-quality CPR that isn’t subject to rescuer fatigue or other factors that may reduce the effectiveness of CPR.

“Rescuers could replicate how well the machine does for a short period of time, but not for a long period of time,” shared Rick.

Outside of highly effective prolonged CPR, the LUCAS also allows patients to be transported to or throughout the hospital without interruption to CPR. If the device is already on a patient and they go back into cardiac arrest, the machine just needs to be turned on again. The device can be used to continue CPR when a defibrillator is also in use, which is not possible if a human is doing the CPR, and when a patient is undergoing lifesaving heart interventions in the Cardiac Catherization Lab.

Advancing care

Initially, Baystate Medical Center has three LUCAS devices, each housed in the Harold Grinspoon & Diane Troderman Adult Emergency Department. With Rick’s experience on the Rapid Response Team and as a paramedic, he realized the value these pieces of equipment could have if available more widely at the hospital.

“It’s a lot easier to manage a cardiac arrest when you don’t need to worry about multiple people rotating through to do compressions,” said Rick. “And, it frees up hands to be helpful in other areas.”

Rick has also seen the benefits of the LUCAS from his more than eight years of work as a paramedic. He shared that after a breathing tube has been placed in a patient, medical professionals track how much carbon dioxide they’re exhaling, which is a measure of CPR quality.

“Once you switch from manual CPR to using LUCAS, you see this number go up, which is indicative of much higher quality CPR,” he added.

With this knowledge, Rick crafted a proposal to purchase more LUCAS devices. The request was passed to Baystate Health Foundation, which had funding to purchase more machines, providing medical team members with more access to this life-saving device. The devices are kept in the Davis Family Heart & Vascular Center, Medical Intensive Care Unit, Surgical Intensive Care Unit, Neuro Critical Care Unit, and one floater kept in the Rapid Response Team office.

“I was excited that the request went through so quickly and that the Baystate Health Foundation was able to help us purchase four,” said Rick. “I think this is going to make a big difference for our patients.”

Expanding care

The additional LUCAS devices will allow continued high-quality CPR at Baystate Medical Center, advancing care for the patients that need it. According to Rick, the more LUCAS devices that are available, the better.

“We can always use more,” he said. “They’re about 20 pounds each, so carrying them for a long distance across the hospital when you’re in a hurry can be difficult. It would be great to have one on each floor, or even in each unit.”

The device, which costs approximately $15,000, would be beneficial throughout the health system.

“They would be extremely useful to have at all of the community hospitals, too,” shared Rick. “The LUCAS really makes a difference in providing life-saving care.”

To learn more about how you can support efforts to purchase more LUCAS devices, contact the Baystate Health Foundation at 413-794-5444.