Tragic death prompts city officials to acquire AED for Four Hills Landfill

Staff photo by Dean Shalhoup Four Hills Landfill scale master Mike Burnham, left, is handed the donated automated external defibrillator by American Medical Response regional manager Chris Stawasz, right, and paramedic supervisor Roy Jack, during a brief presentation at the landfill, where the AED will be installed.

Although they knew they did everything they could have done to save the life of the Nashua man who collapsed, and later died, of a massive heart attack at the Four Hills Landfill last fall, the employees on duty that day still felt they needed to do more.

It wasn’t long before they decided just what to do: Launch a campaign to procure an automated external defibrillator, one of those compact little devices that anyone with a bit of basic training can use to deliver potential life-saving electric shocks to the heart of a person in cardiac arrest.

On a warm sun-splashed day last week, many of the same faces that drooped in sadness some 10 months ago shone with smiles of gratitude and satisfaction of a job well done, as American Medical Response folks arrived with the AED they donated and handed it over to city Public Works officials.

Going forward, AMR regional director Chris Stawasz said, having an AED available “can easily help save a life.” He cited American Heart Association statistics that show that survival rates from sudden cardiac arrest double when someone utilizes a nearby AED in those crucial moments before first-responders arrive.

It’s impossible to know whether the presence, and deployment, of an AED would have changed the outcome on that Saturday morning back in September. But safe to say it may have increased the man’s chances to at least some degree.

So rather than dwell on the outcome, landfill scale master Mike Burnham said at the time, the crew on duty that day shared the AED idea with those who weren’t, and pretty soon the project was underway.

First, remembering that AMR tries through donations to put AEDs in as many places as they can, Burnham and city Solid Waste Department superintendent Jeff Lafleur reached out to Stawasz, who immediately recalled the incident and pledged to get things going.

Knowing that Stawasz, along with city Emergency Management director Justin Kates, Public Works administrators and City Hall folks were on board helped Burnham and his crew begin their quest to see something good come out of tragedy.

Not unlike house and car insurance and those emergency alert buttons often called “life-lines,” an AED is one of those things you hope you never have to use, but you’re glad it’s there when you need it.

“Hopefully you’ll never have another incident, but if you do, you’ll be prepared to (try to) save someone’s life,” Mayor Jim Donchess said, referring to a critical medical emergency.

Donchess was among those who gathered for the 20-minute or so AED presentation, which also drew Public Works director Lisa Fauteux, local AMR supervisors, the crew of Nashua Fire Rescue Engine 6, and a handful of landfill-users who paused to watch.

Although AEDs are purposely designed with “user-friendliness” in mind, Stawasz said a training session typically accompanies a donated AED.

“They’re so simple to use now, it walks you through each step,” he said, but it’s still wise for people to take a little time to familiarize themselves with the machines.

Burnham, meanwhile, said the AED donation “definitely means a lot to us, especially those of us who were involved that day.

“Hopefully, we won’t have to use it, but if we do, it will be there,” he added.

Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 594-1256, or@Telegraph_DeanS.