Students put heart into helping others

Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine student Danny Kim (left) demonstrates how to perform CPR and use a defibrillator on an infant doll to Ashley Benton, 15, at the Student Docs for Shocks booth during the Suwanee Fest in Suwanee. PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.
Caption
Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine student Danny Kim (left) demonstrates how to perform CPR and use a defibrillator on an infant doll to Ashley Benton, 15, at the Student Docs for Shocks booth during the Suwanee Fest in Suwanee. PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.

Credit: Phil Skinner

Credit: Phil Skinner

They call themselves “Student Docs for Shocks,” and their mission is to save lives when minutes matter.

For nearly a year, four medical students have been raising money to put defibrillators where they have the greatest potential for saving lives – large gathering places, such as parks, sports facilities, and daycare centers.

It’s not an inexpensive proposition. A defibrillator, a device that restores a normal heartbeat by sending an electric pulse or shock to the heart, usually costs $1,000 or higher, depending on its bells and whistles.

But doctors-in-the-making Chris Griesser, Tyler Richie, Rex Burch and Sara Lezcano – all third-year students at the Georgia campus of the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM) in Suwanee – say it’s so worth it.

“It brings me a lot of joy and pride knowing that something we are doing may one day save a life,” Richie said.

Photo of a defibrillator at the Student Docs for Shocks booth during the Suwanee Fest in Suwanee. For Inspire Atlanta story about how four medical students have formed a nonprofit to try to reduce the incidents of cardiac death outside hospitals, in part, by raising money and putting defibrillators into the community. PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.
Caption
Photo of a defibrillator at the Student Docs for Shocks booth during the Suwanee Fest in Suwanee. For Inspire Atlanta story about how four medical students have formed a nonprofit to try to reduce the incidents of cardiac death outside hospitals, in part, by raising money and putting defibrillators into the community. PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.

Credit: Phil Skinner

Credit: Phil Skinner

The American Heart Association estimates that only about 10% of people who experience an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest will live to talk about it, something Griesser knows first-hand. For more than a decade, he was an emergency medical technician (EMT), then a paramedic.

“We can’t put a medic on every corner. We can’t have a cath lab on every corner,” Griesser, 39, said. “The only way we can make a dent in the poor survival rate is to give the public the tools, the resources to be able to help folks outside of the hospital – and that’s the defibrillator.”

To optimize the chances of survival, a shock needs to be delivered for a cardiac arrest within the first three to four minutes, he said.

Student Docs for Shocks, through the nonprofit they established with the same name, has given out more than $15,000 worth of defibrillators, including to the cities of Duluth and Helen and The Works, a major new multiuse development on Atlanta’s upper westside.

Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine student Danny Kim (left) demonstrates how to perform CPR and use a defibrillator on an infant doll to Ashley Benton, 15, at the Student Docs for Shocks booth during the Suwanee Fest in Suwanee. PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.
Caption
Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine student Danny Kim (left) demonstrates how to perform CPR and use a defibrillator on an infant doll to Ashley Benton, 15, at the Student Docs for Shocks booth during the Suwanee Fest in Suwanee. PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.

Credit: Phil Skinner

Credit: Phil Skinner

Griesser came up with the idea for the nonprofit. He sits on the board of Aidan’s Heart Foundation in his hometown, Philadelphia. AHF is dedicated to reducing the instances of fatal sudden cardiac arrest (SAC), in part, by putting more defibrillators out into the community, since the death in 2010 of a local 7-year-old.

When he mentioned the project in class one day, Richie, Burch, and Lezcano were only too eager to be involved. Like Griesser, they all have a personal experience that made the project speak to them.

Pictured left to right are the group's founding members Tyler Richie, Rex Burch, Chris Griesser, and Sara Lezcano. Their nonprofit is working to try to increase the survival rate from sudden cardiac arrest by putting defibrillators out in the community in Georgia and Florida. Courtesy of Student Docs for Shocks.
Caption
Pictured left to right are the group's founding members Tyler Richie, Rex Burch, Chris Griesser, and Sara Lezcano. Their nonprofit is working to try to increase the survival rate from sudden cardiac arrest by putting defibrillators out in the community in Georgia and Florida. Courtesy of Student Docs for Shocks.

Richie, 26, has atrial fibrillation, an irregular and often rapid heart rhythm that can lead to blood clots in the heart. He was diagnosed with the condition when he was 21.

Lezcano, 27, spent most of her childhood in the rural Florida town of Belle Glade and had her first experience with emergency medicine at age 13. She and her family were walking around their neighborhood when they heard a father yelling and pleading for help for his 2-year-old who had drowned in a pool. Lezcano’s parents, who were not medically trained, called 911 and started chest compressions until EMS arrived.

“I remember feeling scared and sad, but most of all I wanted to help,” said Lezcano, who would go on to be an EMT.

Burch, a 30-year-old native of Marietta, worked previously as an emergency department technician. He, too, has witnessed first hand the “important role that pre-hospital/community access to AEDs, or automated external defibrillators, can play when dealing with cardiac events.”

Chris Griesser came up with the idea for Student Docs for Shocks, a group that's committed to helping non-hospitalized heart attack victims. Courtesy of Student Docs for Shocks
Caption
Chris Griesser came up with the idea for Student Docs for Shocks, a group that's committed to helping non-hospitalized heart attack victims. Courtesy of Student Docs for Shocks

In mid-September, the four had a booth at Suwanee Fest. With the help of volunteers, they demonstrated how to perform CPR and how operating an AED is as simple as turning it on and following the verbal, step-by-step instructions. They also raffled off a defibrillator.

The group is giving out the devices in Florida, as well as in Georgia since three of the four students have ties to the Sunshine state.

Griesser said defibrillators are on par with the sprinklers that are installed in hotel rooms.

“You put it in, and you’re likely never going to use it. But you’re happy it’s there just in case,” he said. “We would obviously be over the moon if our machines affected a positive outcome.”


MORE DETAILS

Student Docs for Shocks

It is a 501(c)(3), tax-exempt nonprofit

Coming soon: www.studentdocsforshocks.org

Donation page: donorbox.org/student-docs-for-shocks

The group is in the process of recruiting new members – including some from other medical schools – to ensure the organization’s health when the four are no longer “student docs.”