Naugatuck receives HEARTSafe award

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NAUGATUCK — The borough received a commendation Tuesday evening from the Connecticut Department of Public Health for its efforts to achieve HEARTSafe designation.

Gary St. Amand, a health program associate with the DPH, spoke briefly at the regular meeting of the Board of Mayor and Burgesses and presented Mayor Bob Mezzo and volunteers Sherri Hopkins and Lisa Herchenroether with a plaque in recognition of Naugatuck’s newly-attained HEARTSafe status.

From left, Lisa Herchenroether, Sherri Hopkins and Mayor Bob Mezzo accept a Department of Public Health commendation for the borough's achievement of HEARTSafe status
From left, Lisa Herchenroether, Sherri Hopkins and Mayor Bob Mezzo accept a Department of Public Health commendation for the borough's achievement of HEARTSafe status

Hopkins and Herchenroether organized cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training and rallied for the installation of automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in public schools and other borough buildings.

“The wait after calling 911 can be some of the longest moments in our lives,” St. Armand said. “The HEARTSafe programs intend to fill in those moments.”

He said a well-trained community with AEDs on hand would better be able to respond in the critical moments between a victim’s heart attack and the arrival of first responders. He said citizens can help fill the gap and make recovery a three-step process: immediate, emergency response from citizens using AEDs and CPR techniques, first-response EMT teams, and advanced medical care at hospitals.

According to the American Heart Association, sudden cardiac arrest victims’ survival rates decrease by 7-10 percent every minute before defibrillation.

As it is, St. Armand said, as many as 87 percent of Connecticut residents wouldn’t even be able to recognize the signs of a heart attack, let alone be capable of performing CPR or using an AED.

But Hopkins and Herchenroether aimed to change that.

Hopkins voluntarily trained hundreds of borough residents in CPR and AED use, and she and Herchenroether lobbied school parents groups to raise the money for the AED devices, which cost about $1,500 apiece.

AEDs are designed to be simple to use for laymen. They automatically detect an irregular or arrhythmic heartbeat and deliver a shock defibrillation to restore it to normal rhythm.

Herchenroether related her personal story on Tuesday night.

“On November 21, 2006, I died,” she said. She suffered a heart attack and sudden cardiac arrest and was saved, due to an AED and a quick response from her husband, a former EMT.

“We are so proud of how the town rallied behind us,” she added.