Millville VFC raising funds for mechanical CPR device

Medical professionals known that, when dealing with cardiac arrest, effective chest compressions deliver vital oxygen to the brain and can prime the heart for a successful shock. And sometimes, the most effective chest compressions come not from human hands but a mechanical device.

The Millville Volunteer Fire Company is currently raising funds to purchase three LUCAS Chest Compression Systems to equip the company’s three ambulances. The device is designed to help improve outcomes of sudden cardiac arrest victims and improve operations for medical responders.

“When we go on a call for a cardiac arrest, it starts out with hands-on CPR. You start out on the floor, you start the CPR, hook up the AED (automated external defibrillator) pads, and then during that process you hook the LUCAS up. Then you have to transport that patient from the house or the yard to the stretcher,” explained EMT Michele Steffans, who also serves as the MVFC’s financial secretary.

“If that LUCAS isn’t hooked up, you’re having to stop manual CPR to lift them onto the stretcher. Where, if the LUCAS is hooked up, it’s continuously doing CPR.”

Steffans said that surrounding fire companies already use the LUCAS device, and often the Millville VFC will request to use the Bethany Beach company’s on cardiac arrest calls.

“The LUCAS is the one that surrounding departments — Roxana, Bethany Beach, Sussex County paramedics — have. So everyone knows how it works. If we switched to the AutoPulse, it wouldn’t be interchangeable with the other departments,” she explained.

Steffans said that, unless a medical emergency has happened to a family member or friend, most people don’t know what a mechanical CPR device is.

“The LUCAS does the mechanical work,” she explained. “If there are interruptions in CPR, blood stops flowing to the brain, collects in the right ventricle… It’s not circulating through the body like it should. The more interruptions, the worse it is.

“It’s so much safer with this in the back of an ambulance than doing manual CPR. Imagine the brakes being thrown on. It just makes so much more sense. We can be strapped in, CPR can be done continuously, while other things can be addressed.”

Steffans said that, this past summer, with the help of Bethany Beach’s LUCAS device, Millville EMTs were able to save the lives of two individuals.

“Two people are walking today because the LUCAS was there to help,” she said.

So far, the fire company has raised more than $15,000 since beginning its fundraising efforts in June, and it has already ordered its first device, which cost $15,000 each.

“The community has been awesome. Our first donation was anonymous — $5,000 to start us off. Bay Forest has donated, and a couple in the Ocean View area has donated $700 toward it. It’s just been amazing,” she said, adding that she believes it is necessary to have two devices, and the third would be a perk. “We would like to do it like Bethany, where there’s one on each unit, so it’s always available.”

Steffans said the fire company has to hold various fundraisers in order to purchase the devices because there wasn’t money in the department’s budget set aside to buy them.

“People think there’s so much money out there for the fire service. There’s not. It’s a nonprofit. Really, we depend on the community, and what little the State and County give us.”

In order to raise the funds, the MVFC has held numerous carwashes and a fundraising night at Fox’s Pizza, and will hold a movie night at the Clayton Theatre on Nov. 25, showing “Ladder 49.”

“For anyone wanting to purchase tickets in advance, they will be $8 each, or 12 tickets for $100,” said Steffans. “[It’s] great for businesses, they can give the tickets to their employees and customers to show how much they appreciate them. It’s a tax-deductible donation and goes to a great cause.”

Those who attend will have the chance to win door prizes. The fire company is also selling 50/50 raffle tickets, with the drawing to be held the night of the movie.

“I would love to see the theater packed. We’re going to bring the antique ambulance up. It’s going to be parked right up front, underneath the marquis.”

Steffans said that Jeff Cox, paramedic field training supervisor for Sussex County EMS, will speak about the LUCAS device on the night of the movie.

“We’re hoping to fill the theater and do the largest hands-on community CPR event in Sussex County. Hands-on CPR is just that — no breaths,” explained Steffans. “A lot of people are turned off by the breaths, so they won’t help in that situation. They’ve found that the breaths aren’t really necessary. As long as you’re doing compressions, it’s pushing the blood through.”

This will be the first fundraiser the fire company has held at the theater, and Steffans hopes to get area businesses to help sponsor the event.

“We’d like to get some $100 sponsors, which would get your logo on the big screen and in the event flyer for the night. That would help defer the cost of the movie,” she said. “If we can get sponsors to help cover the cost of the overhead and the movie, then all the other funds could go to help fund the LUCAS.”

Steffans said that, along with its fundraising efforts for the LUCAS devices, the dedicated volunteers proudly serving their community — approximately 105 active members — will also be starting their Fire Fund Drive in November, as well as continuing to offer the community the opportunity to participate in an ambulance subscription.

“It’s $50, and it covers you for a year. If you get taken to the hospital one time, your bill is $800 to take you. That $50 covers that $800 bill. You don’t get charged for anything. If you have insurance already but they only pay $600, the $50 covers the other $200. It’s like insurance.”

Steffans said that, of the 14,000 households the department serves, only approximately 2,700 have signed up for a subscription.

“I’m really amazed more people don’t take advantage of it,” she said.

Of the LUCAS devices, Steffans said she hopes to have the second one ordered by the end of the year and that she thinks the department’s numerous fundraising efforts will make that a reality.

“I think, once the word gets out about what the LUCAS is, it’ll generate interest and people will start donating toward it,” she said. “I think it would be awesome if it was a packed theater that night. I get goosebumps thinking about it.”

To purchase tickets for the 50/50, for more information about the fundraisers or to donate, call the Millville Volunteer Fire Company at (302) 539-7557 or email Steffans at