June 27 • 05:14 AM

Citizen makes push for life-saving equipment

Imlay man urges commissioners to get portable AEDs for police dept.

October 15, 2008
IMLAY CITY — Gary VanDenBerg admits that public speaking isn't his thing. So his appearance before the Imlay City Commission last Tuesday wasn't exactly a comfortable situation for the 54-year-old longtime resident.

VanDenBerg addressed the panel regarding the lack of automated external defibrillators (AED) available to the city's police and firefighters.

A couple of incidents prompted VanDenBerg to bring up the subject—one personal, the other public.

A year ago Vandenberg's dad died of a heart attack at his Imlay City home. VanDenBerg remembers Police Officer Robert Evoy at the scene at 4 a.m., performing CPR in an effort to save his dad's life.

Gary VanDenBerg
"Bob's a trained EMT and he was doing everything he could," VanDenBerg says. "I took one look at him and I could see from the look on his face that it wasn't good."

Though he'll never know, VanDenBerg wonders if an AED would have helped Officer Evoy's efforts and perhaps saved his dad's life.

"It's an extra tool he could have used, whether or not it would have brought my dad back, I don't know," Vandenberg says.

An AED did make a huge difference for a 30-year-old woman VanDenBerg heard about while listening to the police scanner a couple of weeks ago.

His son's a Lapeer County Sheriff's deputy and former Imlay City firefighter, so the VanDenBerg family make it a habit to tune into the scanner.

"A local county department responded to a call of a 30-year-old woman with no heartbeat. Police got there and used an AED on her and got a heartbeat going until the ambulance got there," VanDenBerg says. "There are success stories out there."

After thinking about it for a couple of days, VanDenBerg decided to try to urge Imlay City Commissioners to find a way to equip police and firefighters with the lifesaving tool.

"I think it's important for the police and fire departments to have," VanDenBerg says.

After doing some checking, VanDenBerg learned that Imlay City is the only local municipality that doesn't have AEDs available to police and firefighters. The City of Lapeer has 11, Metamora has four, there are two in both Almont and Dryden, one each in North Branch and Lapeer Township and two in Capac—though they were recalled and not replaced. The cost of a single unit is estimated around $2,500.

"In a city the size of Imlay I feel there's no excuse not to have them," VanDenBerg says. "They can get grants for flowers and benches, so why not AEDs?"

It's not that Imlay hasn't tried, City Manager Amy Planck says.

"The city had sought grant funding in the past through United Way which was denied," Planck says.

While the city is researching what's available in terms of a grant or other funding, Police Chief John Stano is attempting to secure funds for an AED through the Four County Community Foundation.

"If it saves one life it pays for itself," Stano says. "In a community like this you never know where EMS is going to be coming from and a scout car is close by and often the first to arrive on a scene in a medical emergency."

Stano's grant application won't be reviewed until after the first of the year.

In the meantime, VanDenBerg offered to put up $100 to start a fund, and is researching other grant opportunities.

"It could make all the difference in the world for someone and their family—and that would be worth any amoung of money to them," VanDenBerg says.

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