THE VILLAGES, Fla. – Once a month Lew Simon makes the short walk through his garage, to the side of his house.
“See that box,” he says, pointing to the square metal frame bolted to his wall. “That’s the AED. It’s mounted, it’s locked and it’s weatherproof.”
The Automated Defibrillator Device may be hidden behind a hedge but it’s clear Simon is proud to have it close by.
Simon needs to check the battery strength. He never knows when it will be needed.
“It still has roughly 30 shocks left in it,” Simon says after flipping the box open to inspect it.
Simon is the President of the Neighbors Saving Neighbors program which connects CPR/AED trained volunteers to the local 911 dispatch using ReadyAlert.
“That’s what the program is. It’s neighbors saving neighbors,” Simon said from his home in The Villages. “At the same time the paramedics get the tone, the neighbors that are trained get it. They live nearby and they can get there in about a minute. That makes a difference of four, five or six minutes of CPR being done.”
And that’s the point. When seconds count, having a trained volunteer nearby can mean the difference between life and death.
Simon started the program in 2004 when he first moved to the Villages. He was invited to a ‘welcome to the neighborhood’ potluck dinner and sprung the idea on his new neighbors. That year the neighborhood purchased two AED devices for the neighborhood of 53 homes.
It wasn’t long before the units were needed.
“Sudden cardiac arrest, he was dead,” Simon says, describing the moment his neighbor collapsed at the breakfast table. “We had a next-door neighbor there in about a minute. And we had four people and an AED unit there in less than two minutes.”
That man survived and is now 83 years old.
“You have no idea when sudden cardiac arrest is going to happen,” Simon said. “The sooner you can start CPR and keep that oxygenated blood going to the brain and the heart, the better the chance of survival.”
The program caught on and now includes 237 Neighbors Saving Neighbors communities with 4661 volunteer responders.
Bob Sjogren, Public Education Technician for The Villages Public Safety Department, says he teaches about two neighborhood CPR/AED training courses a month. Each course is community-specific where everyone attending lives in the same neighborhood.
“This is helping the people you already know, not just strangers,” Sjogren said. “But they can use this training anywhere to help save a life.”
News 6 was there along with about 20 residents of the Preserve, a community of 134 homes.
Christina Thompson was learning the basics of how and where to attach the defibrillator pads.
“I think it’s great that we got people to come out and train and be willing to help their neighbors,” Thompson said. “I read about how The Villages had a really high survival rate for cardiac problems and so I wanted to have the same services in our neighborhood.”
Thanks to the Neighbors Saving Neighbors program, The Villages has 628 AED units. It’s estimated this is the highest per capita for cities in the U.S. with populations of 100,000 or greater.
A number that makes Simon proud.
“It’s my neighbors that made this happen,” Simon said. “If they didn’t want to do it it wouldn’t have happened.”
If you would like more information about starting the program in your neighborhood visit the ReadyAlert AED website or contact Lew Simon at: firstname.lastname@example.org.