New CPR device saves man in cardiac arrest, survivor gives thanks to rescuers

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Roger Keller had a broken heart. But it was his full heart that poured with thanks for the rescue team that saved him.

“I’m just so glad to be here,” said Keller.

Like a lumbering and friendly teddy bear from the Kentucky back country, Keller wrapped his arms around the MSP Airport firefighters who came to his side last October when he suffered a cardiac arrest at a gate on the F concourse of the Lindbergh Terminal.

As Keller’s heart stopped while he was being placed in the back of an Allina Health ambulance, firefighters used a new device called ResQCPR. The device looks like a suction cup that a first responder attaches to the bare chest of a victim and then pumps up and down to the precise rhythm of a built-in metronome.  When used with an airlock valve on a breathing bag attached to the victim’s mouth, the system works together to pull blood into the heart and pump it back out.

“When we pull up on the chest, we get a negative pressure in the chest and this sucks more blood back into the heart,” explained Dr. Charles Lick, the EMS medical director for Allina Health.

It was Dr. Lick who saw the new technology as a potential life-saving device and worked to get them in place at MSP after it was approved by the FDA in 2015. 

The new system was pioneered and developed by Dr. Keith Lurie of the University of Minnesota. Dr. Lurie was inspired by a cardiac arrest patient of his many years ago in San Francisco who was saved by a family member who used a toilet plunger on the victim’s chest in place of manual CPR.  Dr. Lurie researched the idea for years and finally discovered that the suction pump had to be coupled with a valve that regulates airflow into the lungs.

“When we tested this device on patients in the operating room, if we impeded air flow from rushing into the chest when we pulled up with the suction cup device, then we could double the blood flow back to the heart and nearly normalize blood flow back into the brain,” said Lurie.

Cardiac arrest is typically catastrophic. Only about 6 to 7 percent of all people who have a cardiac arrest and get CPR walk out of the hospital neurologically intact.  With the ResQCPR system, survival rates dramatically improve.

“When we studied this technology, we improved outcomes for all cardiac patients who had a cardiac arrest by about 50 percent,” said Lurie.

Allina Health is now working to get the ResQCPR system in the hands of more EMS departments that it works with.

For Roger Keller, it was a life saver.  

“I’m just thankful.  I don’t know how to put it any other way.”