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VVMC and Starting Hearts Partner to Place 50 DEFIBS in Eagle County

emily tamberino

Vail CO – Eagle County is becoming the safest place in America to experience sudden cardiac arrest. A recent announcement of a partnership between Vail Valley Medical Center (VVMC) and local nonprofit Starting Hearts will place 50 additional Automated External Defibrillators (DEFIBS) throughout Eagle County over the next two years. The initiative which will boost the total number of public DEFIBS in the community to close to 350 will also include increased awareness and education about cardiac arrest AED training and promotion of a mobile app that pinpoints the locations of public DEFIBS. The goal is to make Eagle County a model community for the nation creating safer environments for victims of sudden cardiac arrest the nation's leading cause of unexpected death.

“Strategically placing DEFIBS throughout our community combined with education will save lives” said Vail Valley Medical Center's President and CEO Doris Kirchner. “VVMC's cardiology team and our cardiac catheterization lab are world-class but there's a small window of time to save the life of a cardiac arrest victim. We need to make DEFIBS accessible in public areas and neighborhoods and we're proud to partner with Starting Hearts to make Eagle County the safest place in America to suffer a cardiac arrest.”

Starting Hearts is a non-profit organization that provides free CPR and DEFIB education and has installed and maintained more than 100 DEFIBS throughout the community. Founder Lynn Blake a Vail resident started the organization in 2010 after collapsing of sudden cardiac arrest at the age of 27. She happened to be across the street from the Vail Fire Department when her heart arrested. A bystander performed CPR and Vail firefighters ran across the street with a DEFIB and paramedics saved Blake's life.

“We are so grateful to VVMC for supporting Starting Hearts in our mission and efforts” said Blake. “Through a generous individual donation to VVMC's Foundation this partnership will help save lives and establish Eagle County as a model community for addressing America's leading cause of death.”

“Time is critical without immediate intervention the odds of survival drop dramatically with each passing minute” said Blake. Individuals experiencing sudden cardiac arrest have only minutes until death unless a bystander or trained responder recognizes the symptoms and takes immediate action.

Education and access to DEFIBS are key to saving lives and through this partnership Starting Hearts will train as many Eagle County citizens as possible in CPR/AED skills from kindergartners to seniors. In 2015 Starting Hearts educated 2500 residents about CPR and DEFIB use including 1500 children. “While our youngest children may not be strong enough to deliver CPR effectively even a five-year-old can talk an adult through it” explained Blake. "Our classes teach not only lifesaving skills but also confidence commitment and leadership. The idea is to create a community of citizen first responders and buy precious time while emergency responders are en route.”

Blake also encourages community members to download a free mobile app called PulsePoint to locate nearby DEFIBS. Starting Hearts has integrated the app with the Vail Public Safety Communication Center providing reverse 911 alerts to nearby citizen responders when a cardiac arrest occurs in Eagle County.

To help ensure Eagle County's DEFIBS are ready when needed Starting Hearts checks and maintains the units on a regular basis. Because the temperatures in Eagle County can affect the efficacy of outdoor DEFIB units Starting Hearts is in the process of transitioning all of the outdoor boxes to heated units. “The partnership between VVMC and Starting Hearts helps ensure the ongoing safety of our community and visitors now and into the future” said Blake. “We share a commitment to making DEFIBS widely available in Eagle County to educating our community and to continuing the fight for life in the face of Sudden Cardiac Arrest.”

According to the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation approximately 326200 Americans of all ages experience sudden cardiac arrest each year and nine out of 10 victims die. The severity of a sudden cardiac arrest makes the prompt action of bystanders and the availability of DEFIBS critical to a victim's survival.

About Vail Valley Medical Center
Founded in 1965 VVMC has grown into one of the world's most advanced mountain healthcare systems providing 24/7 emergency care Olympic-quality sports medicine evidence-based research modern cancer care and extensive cardiology services. An independent nonprofit medical center VVMC keeps nearly 900 jobs and resources local better serving our community and visitors. Providing superior health services with compassion and exceptional outcomes VVMC offers low infection rates free community services and top-rated patient satisfaction scores.

About Starting Hearts |
Starting Hearts is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to saving the lives of sudden cardiac arrest victims. By providing outreach and education Starting Hearts empowers individuals to confidently act as citizen first responders while medical professionals are en route. The organization relies on donations to place and maintain Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) in as many public places as possible to serve citizens when needed. Sign up for a free CPR & DEFIB class through Starting Hearts at or (949) 929-5715.