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A local emergency department was recognized for providing critical care for stroke, heart attack and cardiac arrest patients.

Reedsburg Area Ambulance Service received the American Heart Association’s Mission: Lifeline EMS Bronze Award for using training and technology to help residents survive severe cardiovascular problems.

The key is starting treatment right away at the scene, said the service’s assistant chief, Phil Raupp. Reedsburg Area Ambulance personnel follow protocols set by the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology. They also have access to 12 high-tech cardiac monitors, which can be attached to stretchers.

Raupp said monitors and knowledge help responders start stabilizing patients while they rush them to Reedsburg Area Medical Center. If necessary they will transport to Madison.

During incidents the Service notifies a hospital ahead of time with the patient’s condition. Raupp said it further improves chances of survival.

The Service covers the region and can assist smaller, rural departments with its fly car. Director Josh Kowalke said responders can drive to a scene and ride along in an ambulance to help, although the local department maintains control and leadership of the situation.

The department receives about 200 cardiovascular-related calls each year, he said.

To save lives, patients and their families need to pick up the phone. Unfortunately, not everyone reacts right away to a potential cardiac condition, Kowalke said.

According to the Service, more than 250,000 people nationwide suffer a STEMI, or ST Elevation Myocardial Infarction, a heart attack where blood flow is completely blocked from reaching the heart. Emergency care is necessary to survive such serious incidents.

“We say, ‘Time is muscle,’” Kowalke said. “As time goes by your heart muscle is dying.”

Kowalke suspects heart-related calls will increase in the future as Sauk County’s population ages. He said older patients are not only more likely to develop cardiovascular problems but also experience complications during a bout.

Raupp said it’s the first time Reedsburg Area Ambulance has received the Bronze Award from the American Heart Association, and it shows the department has made efforts to do more for sufferers.

“It makes you a better service to shoot for a goal,” he said.

The department’s next goals include continuing its heart-centric training while recruiting more emergency responders. Kowalke said it’s been difficult to find qualified staff due to nature of the job; not everyone wants to be on-call for a full day.

He said Madison Area Technical College in Reedsburg provides training, and the next session starts Aug. 28. Visit madisoncollege.edu for details.

Follow Heather Stanek on Twitter @HStanek1 or reach her at 608-697-6353.

I am the reporter and photographer for the Reedsburg Times-Press. I also shoot, edit and post videos for stories.