Nightly News   |  October 22, 2013

Survival rates improve when police use defibrillators

A program in Rochester, Minn., has put defibrillators in every police car and first-responder vehicle. When so many police vehicles arrive on the scene before ambulances, having the right equipment on-hand can mean the difference between life and death. NBC’s Dr. Nancy Snyderman reports.

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>>> just about all of us have had someone taken from us by sudden cardiac arrest . when the human heart goes into crisis, and is shutting down and hope is lost for the patient, unless, of course, help can get there immediately. tonight we have a rare look at one entire city that has formed something of a rapid reaction force to save lives. our report tonight from our chief medical editor, dr. nancy snyderm snyderman.

>> the latest measurement here, six inches of snow and counting.

>> when a late spring snowstorm hit minnesota in may this year, 72-year-old army veteran, ron cath, went out to snow blow his driveway, like he always does.

>> it's no big deal here. that's what we do. snow was piled up real high.

>> reporter: but this time, he collapsed. ron suffered a sudden cardiac arrest , and almost died.

>> it was police who got here first.

>> ron 's wife, paula, said the police knew just what to do. even before paramedics arrived. they used a defibrillator to shock him back to life. ron is lucky to live in rochester, minnesota.

>> get some bloc blood work done for you.

>> the city with the country's highest survival rate for people who suffer cardiac arrest outside the hospital. 58%.

>> this is one of the first defibrillators we put into a police car .

>> it's all because of this man. dr. roger white , from the mayo clinic , pioneered a program starting in 1990 . putting automated external defibrillators, aeds, in every police car and other first responder vehicle in rochester. he wanted to see if survival rates would increase if police were equipped to shock patients back to life within the critical first four to six minutes of an incident. the moments before an ambulance might arrive.

>> the time between collapse and defibrillation is crucial to survival.

>> analyzing heart rhythm .

>> dr. white keeps track of every cardiac arrest case in the city.

>> you did something very few people have done. you kept data from day one.

>> that's been the hallmark of this program. not just to do it, but to analyze everything you do.

>> this is portable.

>> other cities have since caught on to his life-saving approach. it's a partnership, first responders say, that just makes good sense. so how do you guys work together? a cop and a paramedic?

>> they're it there first and can get there a minute or two before us.

>> and then we'll start attach attaching the aed to the patient and give updates over the radio as this is going on.

>> and then as we get there, we'll provide the advanced life support that's needed.

>> you walk by these defibrillators every day in hospitals, in your workplace, and airports. just pick one up, take a look. even think about getting one in your home. these are the things, brian, that make everyday people heroes in your backyard.

>> prices are coming down for folks at home. they are