Franciscan Skemp Doctor Cheri Olson had always been healthy and active.
“I think it had been five years since I’d seen a doctor, so I was very healthy...on no medications," Doctor Olson said.
But when she went to see her 98-year-old patient, Edna on February 27, 2008, she suffered a sudden cardiac arrest.
"The nurses heard a loud thud so they started coming…my head basically hit the floor. Edna'd look at me—‘Yep, I knew it in your eyes. You were dead. You were a goner.’”
But thanks to CPR and an Automated External Defibrillator, or an AED, she survived. Now she’s the president of the Seven Rivers Chapter of the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association.
“The organization is made up of people who work at both hospitals—Gundersen Lutheran and Franciscan Skemp," Doctor Olson said. "It’s made up of people from the fire department and police officers, community activists and volunteers.”
Doctor Olson says the group’s goal is to disperse as many AEDs as possible to the community, starting with the La Crosse County Sheriff’s Department.
An AED costs about $1,000 each. The Seven Rivers Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association hopes to raise $25,000 so every sheriff squad car has an AED.
"I would have to say every call we’re not exactly sure what we’re walking into and it would be really nice to have that item, that AED, on hand in case it is a cardiac situation," said La Crosse County Sheriff Department Sergeant Bill Lubinski.
He says they currently have three cars that are equipped with an AED. Those cars are usually used during second-shift.
“I can recall situations where the officers that have the units in their vehicles have been the first people out at the scenes and have used those items for emergencies and have been successful," Sgt. Lubinski said.
Doctor Olson says only about 3-5% of the people who suffer sudden cardiac arrests survive. But with more AEDs readily available and more people trained on them, the survival rate is much higher.
“In communities where AEDs are deployed more readily and people are willing to use them and there’s awareness of it, you can get survival rates up to 20-30%," Doctor Olson said.
And as a survivor, she says she feels fortunate to be able to tell her story and help others in the process.
Doctor Olson says within the first week of campaign, they already have enough for one AED. She says they hope to raise the $25,000 for the 25 AEDs within a year.
If you’d like to learn more about AEDs or to make a donation, you can call the Seven Rivers Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association at (608) 392-7677. You can also email the Association at: email@example.com or send a check to:
7 Rivers Chapter SCAA
c/o Dr. Cheri Olson
815 So. 10th
La Crosse, WI 54601