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."
Hawthorne Lane is a mid-sized church, rich in history, yet forward-thinking in views. "We've always been concerned about providing a safe environment for people who use our buildings," Vilagos says. The gymnasium is open to the community and a nursery is located on campus as well. Plus, the church is 96 years old. "We have some members who were baptized and have grown up in the church so we have a significant elderly population," she continues. "We felt we needed to be better equipped to meet the needs of our seniors, student athletes and children. We felt we needed a full accompaniment of first aid, including an AED. We saw an article about the Lucky Hearts Campaign, so we applied."
Fortunately, the donated AEDs at Hawthorne Lane church have not been needed, but their existence provides assistance to more than those who attend the church. Like all AEDs donated through the Lucky Hearts Campaign, these devices are registered with the Medic 9-1-1 system. That means if a 9-1-1 calls comes into dispatch for a cardiac arrest victim, the dispatcher can tell the caller where the closest public-use AED unit is located. "We sit just outside the city center," says Vilagos. "And we're also on a bus route so we have a lot of traffic. Because the unit is registered, it can be located and used by any bystander to help a cardiac arrest victim."
Young is eager to share the Lucky Hearts Campaign with other EMS agencies and offers these considerations to get started:
- Visit the Lucky Hearts Campaign website: The campaign is a trademarked program of Medic and MMAE. However, they have developed a starter packet with helpful tips in initiating the program in other areas. "We are completely open to any EMS agency taking this campaign," she says. "We would love to see it take off across the nation."
- Look for a partner: MMAE approached Medic with a desire to be part of a health program, but don't be intimidated to go out and look for an organization to partner with. "As EMS agencies we have medical training, but not usually the funds," she says. "Look for a community partner that can provide the funds. Consider hospitals, too."
For more information about the Lucky Hearts Campaign, visit www.medic911.com/extranet/lucky_hearts.