Foundation kicks off ‘Be a Lifesaver Hawaii’

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Hilo Medical Center Foundation kicks off an ambitious new campaign today aimed at saving lives when sudden cardiac arrest strikes.


Hilo Medical Center Foundation kicks off an ambitious new campaign today aimed at saving lives when sudden cardiac arrest strikes.

An offshoot of an Arizona program, “Be a Lifesaver Hawaii” will reach out to Hawaii Island residents to explain the importance of learning chest compression only CPR, as well as work to identify public areas that could benefit from having access to automated external defibrillators (AEDs) that can shock a person’s heart back into rhythm after it has stopped. Once those areas are identified, the campaign will work to find funding and buy the machines.

Unlike a heart attack, in which blood supply can be cut off to parts of the heart muscle, sudden cardiac arrest involves a complete stoppage of the heart’s pumping. Once that happens, you have only a few minutes to get it going again, said HMC Foundation Executive Director Lisa Rantz.

“By doing chest compressions only, you can move the oxygen in someone’s lungs to the brain, keeping the brain oxygenated, and it can increase your chances of survival from the single digits to the double digits,” she said. “But when your heart stops, you’ve got to get it started again. And that’s where the AEDs come in.”

AEDs use computers to monitor a patient’s heart rhythm and then apply electric shocks to restart it, if needed, she said.

“It does the thinking for you. It will even talk to you, tell you to back away when it’s shocking. It walks you through the process,” Rantz said.

The equipment is expensive, however, with most models costing between $1,500 and $2,000, according to the American Heart Association. Meanwhile, even if a particular business, organization or agency has one on hand, many people don’t know where the AED is located or what it is for, Rantz said.

The Foundation has secured $85,000 in start-up money from the Kaimas Foundation and the Steven M. Gootter Foundation, and has partnered with the Hawaii Fire Department, the Hawaii Island Chamber of Commerce, KTA Super Stores and Hilo Medical Center.

The program will spread the word about the three simple steps needed to perform CPR, and will survey the community to find out the need for AEDs. The goal is to get 35 of the machines to place in public areas and in police vehicles and other vehicles of first responders.

In an early salvo preceding the kickoff of the campaign, Rantz presented Monday an AED to Hilo Municipal Golf Course General Manager Troy Tamiya.

“We’re trying to put them in public places, especially where you have a lot of elderly people out doing strenuous walking,” she said.

Tamiya said the course sees about 75,000 golfers each year, with 60 percent of them being age 60 or older.

“We see more and more seniors feeling ill on the course,” he said. “We’ve already purchased one AED, being that the majority of our clientele can benefit from it and there is always going to be a need. We’re blessed to receive this machine. It’ll be another line of defense.”

Tamiya said no one at the course has ever needed to use the existing AED, “but just knowing we have it as an option is important.”


To get involved in the campaign or find more information, visit or call Rantz at 935-2957. You also can email her at

Email Colin M. Stewart at

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