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CPR App Helps Save Baby's Life, Goes Nationwide

The application, built with help from enterprise software company Workday, has already helped to save a one-month-old baby in Spokane, Washington.


The PulsePoint Respond app, which was launched in Santa Clara County in partnership with El Camino Hospital, is free to use by anyone who has experience with CPR.


The PulsePoint Foundation, which manages the app along with Workday, is partnering with the Red Cross to promote it nationwide. The Red Cross, in turn, will have its official CPR information guidelines and app download opportunity included in the app.


The application alerts volunteers to the cardiac arrest with a loud noise reminiscent of an Amber Alert and a memo on the phone's home screen.


Timeliness is critical in cardiac arrests. According to the American Heart Association, death can occur if the brain goes without oxygen-rich blood for more than eight minutes. And after 10 minutes, resuscitation is nearly impossible. So citizen response can vastly improve a person's survival chances.


A benefit of the app is that it brings a "higher-level" CPR skill set to emergency CPR situations, according to Richard Price, the founder of PulsePoint. The lifesaving assistance that revived the baby in Spokane highlights this point.


A mechanic who is a part-time emergency medical technician, Scott Olson, arrived at a store to find a baby boy lying on the ground, looking blue and struggling to breathe. The store clerk, who was a former Girl Scout, had been attempting CPR on him without definitive results. Olson says her help was likely important in keeping the baby alive, but his experience as an EMT allowed him to have a greater impact.


Olson took the baby from his grandmother's hands, placed him in his arms and took his pulse, finding it very faint. He immediately performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation until the emergency team arrived. When he gave him to the on-duty EMT who had responded to the 911 call, the baby began to cry.


The baby was born with a kidney disease that can cause interrupted breathing, as the enlarged kidney obstructs other organs, said Michelle Mulligan, his grandmother. The family had been taking the baby to a doctor's appointment when he stopped breathing, a PulsePoint representative said.


At the time he received the alert, Olson was working under a car, hands full of oil grease. His shop was only two blocks away, which meant he was able to get to the baby in about five minutes. He was surprised when the alert came in because he had signed up for it six months before and hadn't received any notifications.


Now he's glad he signed up in the first place. "I've always helped people, and I know that early intervention is important," he told me in a phone interview.


Reducing first-response times to cardiac arrests by a significant margin will save many more lives if PulsePoint can mobilize the hundreds of thousands of people who already know CPR. The Red Cross has been teaching CPR classes for 50 years, but people could only use those skills if they were in the right place and at the right time. And being in the right place was sometimes not enough.


Pulsepoint founder Richard Price told me came up with the app idea because of a "startling" personal experience when he was a fire chief in San Ramon. Price was nearby when a man died of cardiac arrest, but Price did not know about it in time to help.


He felt an application that worked like an e-radio for first responders would be widely used because they are the type of people who always have a phone and are ready to help at a moment's notice.


Price partnered with Workday to make the app. Together, they put it through several technical and organizational trials.


Over two years, the developers worked through difficult technical issues including integration into the expensive Computer-Aided Dispatch(CAD) 911 systems. These CAD systems each use specific, complicated configurations set up by separate vendors.


Joe Korngiebel, vice president of user experience for Workday, told me his programmers hook their system into the dispatch so that when a critical call comes in, the app simultaneously notifies its users of the distress call.

Once the app was built, it was tested in San Ramon and Danville for a year before expanding to other cities. Each time Workday builds into a new system, it is usually a slow rollout because different communities have different needs. Korngiebel said this is a good thing because it allows the app to offer different services to regions. In San Diego, developers added a water-rescue alarm because the regional dispatch receives many water-bound emergencies.


Price said there are instances when the rollout process can be sped up to two weeks. It costs agencies a one-time fee of $9,000 to implement the system, he said.


Workday workers have volunteered all the work on the app, Korngiebel said.

The app is already a success, but it has plenty of room to grow. Alerts have been activated 9,362 times to cardiac arrest events in more than two years of trials, many ending in saved lives just like that of the Spokane baby. As of today, the app has been activated in about a hundred 911 dispatch centers, out of 7,500 centers nationwide.


The more the app gets disseminated, the more people will be grateful for the help. After the paramedics took the baby to the hospital, Scott Olson said he was left shaking. Still, he managed to talk to the grandmother and the baby's sisters and told them their brother was in good hands.


Two hours later, the grandmother visited him at his work to thank him again personally and tell him the baby was stable. Mulligan told me that when she saw Olson at the car shop, she just went up to him and hugged him. Her two granddaughters also reached up to give him a big hug.


"He was all greasy, but he was so gracious," Mulligan told me over the phone. She hasn't seen Olson since, but she said her grandson wouldn't be alive today without the aid he rendered.




This article originally appeared in the Silicon Valley Business Journal.

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