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Staff from The Marketplace, Defibtech, and the Guilford Fire Department and other town officials display the automated external defibrillator (AED) device now installed inside The Marketplace. (Photo by Zoe Roos/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Representatives of Page Hardware, Defibtech, and the Guilford Fire Department and other town officials display the automated external defibrillator (AED) device now installed inside Page Hardware. (Photo by Zoe Roos/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Defibtech representatives, members of the Guilford Fire Department, and town officials pose with the AED device outside of Town Hall. (Photo by Zoe Roos/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
The automated external defibrillator (AED) installed in Page Hardware was purchased with funds donated in loving memory of Marlene Tolento. (Photo by Zoe Roos/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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Inside Page Hardware, by the steps leading to right side of the shop, there is an automated external defibrillator (AED) in a case with a small gold plaque reading “In Loving Memory of Marlene Tolento.” To some, the device and the plaque might not seem like much, but in reality the device and the plaque represent a tribute to a beloved woman and a community-wide commitment to making Guilford more heart healthy.
Marlene Tolento, known to many as Marlene Rosa, passed away suddenly from a cardiac arrest in fall 2017. Known for her infectious smile and ability to brighten anyone’s day, she was a fixture in Guilford for decades, famous for her work at the Guilford Food Center—the Rosa family business—and as a hairdresser. Her loss touched not only friends and family, but the wider community.
So the community found a way to respond. After her death, in lieu of flowers, donations were to be sent to the Guilford Volunteer Fire Department. As the donations came in, Guilford Assistant Fire Chief Mike Shove said the department sought a way to properly honor her memory with the money. The decision was to purchase AEDs, which help re-establish an effective heart rhythm after a cardiac arrest.
“In the event someone else has a heart attack, we wanted to put as many AEDs out there [in the community] as possible,” Shove said.
Local Business, Local Action
Shove said the department reached out to Defibtech, a business founded and headquartered in Guilford that produces AEDs. The fire department has worked with the company for several years, partnering for research and development, and the company equipped the newest Guilford fireboat and ladder truck with its devices.
The Fire Department reached out to current Defibtech CEO Robert Reinhardt about purchasing an AED. Reinhardt offered to donate a device, but the Fire Department made it clear it was honoring Tolento through donated funds, so instead Reinhardt gave the department a discount, allowing for the purchase of two AED devices.
“We put one into The Marketplace and one into Page Hardware and both of the owners agreed to have them in their shops, so the Green is somewhat saturated with AEDs,” said Shove. “We have one at Town Hall that the company also donated, one at Town Hall South, there is one in the library, and there are a good number of them throughout the Green area.”
Employees at Page Hardware and The Marketplace also took CPR training through the Fire Department in conjunction with the donation of the devices.
“To have [the AED at the Marketplace] and...to have them in as many buildings as possible and have our employees trained is tremendous,” said Ron Rosa. “We are very happy, especially in light of what happened.”
Shove said having multiple AED devices in place around a highly populated area like the Guilford Green is a great thing for the community. It means if someone in the area has a cardiac arrest, there is an AED in place for use right away.
“Businesses have these in their stores now and are supporting a heart-safe community and the fact that they are in memory of Marlene—that is a big piece for me,” said Shove.
The Big Picture
Defibtech, headquartered in Concept Park, was established in Guilford nearly 20 years ago and has grown from three employees to more than 100. First Selectman Matt Hoey said it’s a great business to have in town.
“We are thrilled to have a corporation like Defibtech here in Guilford,” he said. “Particularly because they have a corporate conscious and are willing to invest on behalf of our citizens to provide greater awareness and devices to improve the opportunities to save lives.”
Economic Development Coordinator Brian McGlone said the company donates a couple AEDs each year, so they can be placed in highly populated areas like the local beaches and downtown.
“They told me, ‘We want to be good neighbors and this is how we are going to do it’,” McGlone said. “It’s good for them from a visibility standpoint, but they are also trying to save lives.”
Reinhardt said in addition to creating AEDs, the company is looking at ways to lower fatality rates from cardiac arrests in general. He said if a person has a cardiac arrest, their chance of survival is about 10 percent. If there is an AED nearby that can be deployed quickly, that chance of survival jumps to 20- to 30 percent. However, Reinhardt said the company is also investigating how to increase that survival percentage by coordinating the efforts of technology, people, services, and devices within a community.
“It’s a matter of proximity, knowledge, and speed, because you have 10 minutes to save someone,” he said. “What we want to do is figure out what model works and what could work here on the shoreline—Branford, Guilford, Madison—and come up with a plan on how we could partner with the businesses and the towns to just get more AEDs in the public and couple that with some kind of training. We are trying to figure out what that looks like.”
A portion of that plan is grounded in technological advances. Reinhardt said apps for smart phones exist that allow users to see where AED devices are in the surrounding area.
“All of that exists, so we just need to figure out how to pull it all together and bring it here,” he said. “Our goal is to create it here, figure out how to make it work, and then export it.”
To an extent, some of that technology is already in play in Guilford. Shove said the Fire Department knows where every AED—regardless of manufacturer—is in town.
“The other piece from the Fire Department side is we created a database of the locations and all of the information surrounding the AEDs and incorporated it into our system,” he said. “So when the 911 dispatcher receives a report of a cardiac arrest, if there is an AED on site or close to site, they are able to quickly see if they can get someone who is trained in CPR to get the AED and get to the scene as quick as possible.”
News You Can Use
The terms heart attack and cardiac arrest are often used interchangeable among those of us without a medical degree. However, a heart attack refers to a blocked artery that prevents oxygen-rich blood from reaching the heart and a cardiac arrest refers to an electrical malfunction in the heart. Both can be fatal and the two conditions are linked; sudden cardiac arrest can occur on its own, after a heart attack, or during recovery.
According to the American Heart Association, an individual suffering from cardiac arrest needs to be treated within a few minutes. Signs of a cardiac arrest include a sudden loss of responsiveness and no normal breathing. The association advises that a witness immediately call 911 and begin CPR. If an AED can be acquired, it should be used as soon as possible.
An AED is designed for easy use, meaning the operator need not be a doctor—they simply turn the device on and follow the prompts. CPR can be more difficult to administer, but is an equally critical step. Fortunately, the Guilford Fire Department offers CPR classes for residents. Call Fire Headquarters at 203-453-8057 for more information on classes.