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CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Mike Brownawell said he hopes they never have to use the electronic machines.
But the principal of Burns Junior-Senior High in Cheyenne, Wyo., is glad the devices are available just in case they’re needed.
Burns Junior-Senior High and other schools in Burns and Pine Bluffs now have automatic external defibrillators on hand.
The portable unit can help diagnose patients in an emergency. When necessary, it delivers an electronic current that shocks hearts back to acceptable rhythms.
“They’re smaller than a backpack,” Brownawell said.
Voice prompts built into the device guide rescuers and instruct them what to do next.
Six AEDs are stocked at schools in Burns and Pine Bluffs in Laramie County School District 2. Albin Elementary is expected to get one soon.
Emergency medical services volunteers in the towns applied for state grants to buy the units.
Riley McNamar is a leader on the volunteer emergency medical service ambulance at Burns.
The grant money was geared to put the AEDs at public places, he said. Area EMS volunteers considered the rural schools as the best places, he added. Each unit costs about $3,500.
School nurses Pam Shults and Deidre Hanson have trained 20 people so far to use the machines. Both are certified instructors with the American Heart Association.
Shults said the units are a tremendous service to the community.
Four people at West Elementary are trained to use the devices, said Principal Jerry Burkett. He hopes that more can be trained.
Burns Junior-Senior High got the equipment last year, Brownawell said. Employees were trained over the summer.
The equipment came to Pine Bluffs shortly before Christmas.
Coaches and office staff at the schools are among those trained.
“I think it is very generous and certainly helps us offer more services,” Hanson said of the donation of equipment. “We are a long ways from advanced life support out here.”
The devices are an extra emergency tool, she said.
“CPR is still the first line for resuscitation.” AEDs are used for one specific abnormal heart rhythm, she said.
In addition to the equipment, students at schools in both towns are trained in CPR. Hanson has taught CPR to 10th graders at Pine Bluffs for 15 years.
This is the second year that students in health classes at Burns Junior-Senior High became certified in CPR.
Health teacher Dan Ebben helped bring in an employee from American Medical Response to certify 49 students in CPR. The ambulance company did it for free.
“I thought it was a great idea,” Brownawell said.
“It is part of our standards for our school district to learn CPR,” Ebben said, adding that the skill is important. “Especially where we live in a rural area, you can’t always count on being in a place where the EMTs can get to you immediately.
“It’s a life-long skill they should all learn.”