MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE BARSTOW, Calif. --
An automatic chest compression device currently in use by the Marine Corps Fire Department aboard Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, California, is a lifesaver, not just for the patient but for the paramedic or emergency medical technician using it.
At an Emergency Action Plan joint training exercise August 27 at the Oasis Pool aboard the base, the Lucas 2 device stole the show because of its capabilities to automatically deliver the 110 chest compressions a minute needed to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation on a heart patient.
Assistant Fire Chief Greg Kunkel is the man who oversees the department’s 12 paramedics and their training.
“The Lucas 2 straps on to the backboard or gurney the patient is on,” Kunkel explained. “Then the piston mechanism is place over the sternum of the patient. A button is then pressed to start the piston to deliver the 110 compressions a minute.
“It also will warn after 30 compressions that it is going to stop long enough for the attending paramedic to deliver two breaths to the patient before it resumes its compressions,” he said.
Axel Rivera, Oasis Pool manager and supervising lifeguard, had never seen the Lucas 2 in action.
“I was mesmerized by that machine,” Rivera said. “Sergeant (Maxim) Krymov (volunteer lifeguard) was administering the chest compressions, and after five or six rounds of that you can get pretty tired, even if you switch off duties with the other lifeguard.”
“Using the automatic chest compressor improves the quality of the CPR and it never gets tired,” Rivera concluded.
Kunkel said the Lucas device was introduced into the world of lifesaving technology in the late 1970s and was operated pneumatically by attaching it to the compressed air bottle carried by every ambulance.
“The problem with that is that it was a pneumatic device and depended on a maze of tubes to keep it connected to the oxygen bottle and the Lucas itself,” Kunkel said. “Those tubes were prone to developing leaks.”
That changed when the Lucas 2 device was introduced the chief explained. It operated on a rechargeable lithium ion battery that electronically activated the chest plunger.
“That meant with the electrical inverter built in to all ambulances now, once the patient is secured, the Lucas 2 could be connected to the ambulance power for a much longer use time,” the chief said.
Each Lucas 2 device costs $15,000 and the department has five of them. Chief Kunkel said the lifesavings benefits of the Lucas 2 far outweigh the cost.
“We’ve been using the Lucas 2 for the past seven years because of a tragic accident involving a paramedic in the mid-1990s,” the chief said. “Paramedics with the (civilian) fire department there responded to an accident in Lucerne Valley. The paramedic in the back of the ambulance was standing up holding on to what we call the subway bar with one hand and administering chest compressions with the other. The ambulance was on the way to the hospital when the driver lost control and hit a tree, killing the unrestrained paramedic.”
Kunkel said the MCLB Fire Department often leads the way in new technology to “up the game” of the firefighters and paramedics, and the Lucas 2 is a prime example of that forward thinking. “As far as I know the Marine Corps Fire Department at the base is the only fire department in the high desert that has the Lucas 2,” he said.
“First and foremost, this piece of equipment is for the safety of our crew; secondly, the quality of the CPR delivered by the Lucas 2 never diminishes. The Lucas 2 has taken our CPR techniques to the next level,” Kunkel said.