Patty Perluke (l-r), Ronni Krasny, Claudia Rienzo and Mary Leroux work on the One Heart initiative. Photo provided
By Jan Engoren
Even before Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin’s cardiac arrest on live TV gave the nation a lesson in the critical importance of immediate CPR and use of automatic external defibrillator machines, Colonial Ridge Club residents Sally Szumlas and Eileen Fiorina were on a mission to make first responders out of their neighbors.
The two, both medical professionals, are co-chairs of the Community Well-Being Committee. Szumlas, 60, has a Ph.D. in critical care nursing and Fiorina, 77, is a retired dietitian and clinical manager in a hospital in her home state of Pennsylvania.
“Even if we only save one life here, it is one life someone has to be with their loved ones,” says Fiorina, a 10-year resident of Colonial Ridge in Ocean Ridge who winters here and conceived the idea.
When Szumlas moved in next door, she knew she had an ally.
After they lobbied the board and raised about $7,200 to purchase the AED equipment, their initiative, titled One Heart, kicked off in February — American Heart Month.
The women aim to bring awareness to their community about the importance of having first-responder skills, including performing CPR and using AEDs, to provide lifesaving treatment to someone suffering cardiac arrest.
“We are proud to be able to support our neighbors by bringing our One Heart program and its lifesaving technology to our neighbors at Colonial Ridge,” says Szumlas, who comes down from Chicago each winter. “Data show that early intervention, including cardiac defibrillation, greatly improves the chance of survival from heart attack, and saves nearly 1,700 lives each year in the U.S.
“Everyone should be prepared to be a first responder in an emergency situation,” she says. “That means knowing how to recognize the trouble, having the confidence to intervene and the necessary tools to intervene with.”
As a result of their efforts and with help from Delray Beach business owner Ted David Paul of Med Tran Plus, two AED machines will be installed in publicly accessible areas in the community at 5505 N. Ocean Blvd.
In addition, CPR classes began in late February with the goal of training at least 50% of the almost 200 residents at Colonial Ridge Club, many of them 55 and older.
Szumlas notes that the community has had two incidents of cardiac arrest, in which one resident survived and one did not.
According to Szumlas, residents were trained in the American Heart Association’s “friends and family CPR certification,” a practice-while-watching technique. The committee held five days of training, with two sessions each day.
“We want to help people respond when faced with this situation,” she says. “We want to educate our residents on recognizing and getting the most important things to happen. No. 1, check to see if the person is breathing. No. 2, call 911. And No. 3, if there is no pulse, get the AED and follow the machine’s instructions.
“Besides saving lives, this is a way to bring our community together,” says Szumlas. “Plus, these are skills you can take with you. You never know when you might be in an airport, movie theater or supermarket and have to save somebody’s life.”
Jan Engoren writes about health and healthy living. Send column ideas to email@example.com.