GPS app connects cardiac arrest patients, CPR-trained residents

GREENFIELD — A smartphone app that alerts CPR-trained community members of nearby medical emergencies is now available in Hancock County.

PulsePoint uses GPS to alert specially trained residents to a medical emergency that’s happening near them in a public place. The app provides the address of the emergency and shows a map with the location pinpointed.

Local stakeholders, including Hancock Regional Hospital officials and first-responders, announced Wednesday that PulsePoint is now available to Hancock County residents.

The app is available for both the iPhone and Android smartphones and connects seamlessly to the computer programs 911 dispatchers use to send police, fire and medical personnel to an emergency.

Now, when a call about a cardiac arrest comes into 911 center, PulsePoint will automatically recognize the address and send out an alert to any nearby participants’ cellphones, telling them someone in their vicinity needs help.

Hancock Regional Hospital and the local emergency dispatch center have partnered to bring the $18,000 program to Hancock County, hoping it will empower everyday citizens to help their neighbors.

More than 350,000 sudden cardiac arrests — when a person’s heart suddenly stops beating, causing them to drift in and out of consciousness as their breathing becomes shallow — happen across the country each year. About 90 percent of those instances turn out to be fatal, said Dr. Stephanie Gardner, a Hancock Emergency Department physician and the county’s EMS medical director.

Irreversible brain damage can occur in the first four minutes of unconsciousness, so starting CPR can make all the difference, Gardner said. Using PulsePoint can ensure someone with the skills to help is at the person’s side as quickly as possible while fire department paramedics are en route, she said.

The American Heart Association estimates that effective hands-only CPR provided immediately after a cardiac emergency can double or triple a person’s chance of survival, but only 46 percent of sudden cardiac arrest victims received bystander CPR in 2016.

“Our goal is to get properly trained citizens as well as off-duty first-responders to a patient as quickly as possible to save lives,” said John Jokantas, director of communications for the Hancock County Emergency Operations Center, in a news release. “We are very proud to partner with Hancock Regional Hospital in this project.”

Hancock County resident Sun Fannin spoke briefly during Wednesday during a presentation at Hancock Regional Hospital to encourage residents to download PulsePoint.

Fannin said her son, TeJay Ballenger, suffered a heart attack at work one day in 2016. His life was saved because his coworkers intervened, started CPR and called 911.

“Don’t be afraid,” she said. “Your actions can only help.”

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Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or