Lucky Hearts Campaign Provides More Than Good Fortune

Partnership between Medic and MMAE increases awareness of public-use AEDS and CPR so bystanders can be the next miracle.

Four-leaf clovers have long been associated with good luck. According to legend, each leaf represents something: the first leaf is hope; the second, faith; the third, love; and the fourth, luck.

For residents and visitors of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, the four leaves of the Lucky Hearts Campaign clover logo symbolize more than luck...they represent the next miracle.

The Lucky Hearts Campaign is a strategic partnership between MEDIC EMS (Mecklenburg EMS Agency,) which serves a 542-square mile area that includes rapidly expanding Charlotte, and the Mecklenburg Medical Alliance and Endowment (MMAE), a non-profit organization formed by a group of physicians' spouses more than 75 years ago.

Their goal is to bring awareness to bystander intervention as it relates to sudden cardiac arrest and the need for public-use AEDs (automated external defibrillator), as well as train the public in CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). "Bystander intervention can dramatically increase chances of survival," says Kristin Young, public relations manager with Medic. "Our mission is to give bystanders the ability to respond with a public-use AED within three minutes. We know we have to teach CPR, but we also know AEDs are so important for restarting the heart.

"It's been a great partnership," she continues. "As an EMS agency, we provide medical knowledge as it relates to CPR and AED use, and MMAE provides funds for the AEDs."

The Importance of Training

Since the partnership was formed in January 2009, 43 AEDs have been donated and placed throughout Mecklenburg County and 22 more are in the process of being placed. Plus, nearly 1,400 people in the community have been trained in CPR and AED use.

The campaign received a big boost thanks to the generous donation of Representative Becky Carney, who joined the campaign in April 2010 after suffering a cardiac arrest on the Hill. She was saved by an AED donated by her freshman class. "She's been amazing," says Young. "She's raised enough money to purchase 20 AEDs."

Program goals are to raise $500,000 for distribution of 400 public use AEDs in the county and train at least 10,000 people in CPR and AED awareness. It also hopes to raise enough funds to place an AED in each of the sheriff's vehicles within the county. Program managers are also working with the Health Department to establish a county ordinance that would require placement of AEDs in any new building.

In order to receive an AED, an organization must be non-profit, must demonstrate a need (i.e., placement in an area where a cardiac arrest is likely to occur) and must not have the ability to purchase its own unit. Before a donation is made, the receiving organization must also identify at least 50 people within the group who agree to be trained in CPR and AED use according to the American Heart Association's 90-minute Family and Friends Program.

"This training is so important," says Young. "We stress the importance of bystanders--you--being the fourth leaf of the Lucky Hearts clover." The other three leaves are CPR, AEDs and 9-1-1. "We're also teaching them about the 9-1-1 system, and to not be afraid to call," she continues. "We want them to know our dispatchers are trained in CPR and can walk them through the steps. We want to take away any of their fears."

Providing a Safe Environment

Thus far, the Lucky Hearts Campaign has been very well received. "We've been flooded with nominations for donations," says Young. "At first it was very grass roots, and I was making a lot of calls to organizations that knew nothing about AEDs. But it's really opened up since Representative Carney joined us."

Hawthorne Lane United Methodist Church received two AEDs about six months ago, one for its educational center and one for its gymnasium. "Our congregation has been so blessed," says Terri Vilagos, pastor. "It has been such a great church and community experience, and we are very thankful for the donations."

This content continues onto the next page...