Project promises the reward of a lifetime

Penticton will only be getting two defibrillators rather than the four they had hoped for through a funding program, but they are hoping a local man’s fundraising project will help supply many more.

A partnership between the provincial government and the Heart and Stroke Foundation will provide $2 million to increase public access to automated external defibrillators (AEDs), helping to save the lives of victims of sudden cardiac arrest.

An AED is a safe, portable device anyone can use to deliver an electric shock to restart a heart in sudden cardiac arrest. The AED reads the heart rhythm and only delivers a shock if needed.

“There were a lot more applications that went in than devices were handed out,” said Chuck Loewen, Penticton’s general manager for facilities and recreation services. “I think Vancouver is only getting 16 themselves.”

When they arrive, the two new defibrillators will be installed in two facilities that get a high volume of traffic throughout the year: Cleland Theatre and the library/museum complex. Loewen had hoped to also be able to place AEDs at City Hall and the public works yards.

But the city is also working with The Elevator race and Elevate for AEDs, a fundraising program spearheaded by Penticton sports physiotherapist Grant Gichard, who himself survived an SCA three years ago.

Sudden cardiac arrest is when the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating, stopping blood from flowing to the brain or other vital organs. Without immediate help, a victim of sudden cardiac arrest will suffer brain damage within three minutes. After 12 minutes, survival is unlikely.

“Each year, our paramedics and dispatchers provide assistance for hundreds of cardiac arrest patients,” said Les Fisher, chief operating officer for B.C. Ambulance Service.

“We know first-hand the positive impact an AED can have for a patient. Simply put, they save lives.”

Gichard’s answer is to have as many AED installed around the city as possible, including the ball fields at Lions Park, where he had his SCA while pitching a baseball game.

Through Elevate for AEDs, individuals or teams entered into the Elevator Race can collect pledges that will contribute towards purchasing an AED for installation at locations designated as high-traffic, high-risk areas. That list includes secondary schools, fitness clubs, shopping malls and sports areas like Lions Park.

Gichard and his cardiologist, Dr. David Cleveland, will be a two-man team to fundraise for the installation of an outdoor AED at the ball fields.

“We are just encouraging people to gather a team together and sign up,” said Gichard, adding that participants don’t need to be an Ironman-level athlete to join the relay race.

“Reasonably fit people should be able to complete one of the legs,” he said. “They are about 40 minutes long. It is designed to be fairly accessible to most people.”

While there are several AEDs in public buildings throughout the city, Loewen agrees with the goal of installing more. He’d like to see them in all public buildings.

“We are really pleased to work with those folks and get them (AEDs) to where they are needed,” he said.

Locations include Memorial and McLaren arenas, the South Okanagan Events Centre and two at the community centre: one in the lifeguards’ area and a publicly accessible one on the lower floor.

Loewen hopes the Elevate for AEDs project will help make more AEDs available, but is also considering including them as an item in next year’s city budget.

“The costs are around $1,600 apiece, which is a great investment for saving a life down the road,” said Loewen.

The partnership between the province and B.C. Heart and Stroke includes the B.C. Ambulance Service, which will support the venues receiving an AED by providing orientation for staff on how to correctly use and maintain the devices.

The ambulance service will also compile a registry linked to the dispatch information system, which will map all of the locations in the province where AEDs have been installed. When a bystander calls 9-1-1 for an ambulance, the dispatcher will know if an AED is available at the location, and will assist the bystander to use the AED on the cardiac arrest patient. The registry is expected to be active by the end of this month.

The Elevator Race takes place on March 23. More information about signing up a team to fundraise for an AED is available online at For information on the PAD Program, AEDs or sudden cardiac arrest visit


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