CPR devices on the way to South Dakota hospitals

Helmsley Charitable Trust sending equipment to help battle COVID-19

Nurses at Avera St. Mary's in Pierre demonstrate the use of a LUCAS CPR device. The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust is providing $4,711,481 to upper Midwest state hospitals for the purchase of such machines, which will help provide CPR automatically to patients suffering from COVID-19 in the case of cardiac arrest. Two of the machines are bound for Avera Queen of Peace Hospital in Mitchell. (Submitted Photo)

The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust is sending millions of dollars’ worth of LUCAS mechanical CPR devices to hospitals in five upper-Midwestern states, including Avera Queen of Peace Hospital in Mitchell, in an effort to save the lives of COVID-19 patients and protect front line health care workers caring for them.

The trust has set aside $4,711,481 in funding to be distributed to the states to pay for devices.

“These devices are vital because we don’t want front line health care workers to choose between trying to save a patient or risking exposure to themselves and others to the Coronavirus,” Walter Panzirer, a trustee for the Helmsley Charitable Trust, said in a statement. “LUCAS has been a proven, effective tool in saving lives during cardiac arrest, and having more of them available during this pandemic will save even more lives, including those doctors, nurses and other health care workers.”

The LUCAS Chest Compression System delivers consistent, uninterrupted chest compressions that allows health care providers to concentrate on other equally important aspects of patient care, which in turn provides the patients with the best opportunity for survival.

A total of 54 such devices will be purchased in South Dakota, including two for Avera Queen of Peace Hospital in Mitchell. Other locations receiving substantial numbers of the devices include facilities in Sioux Falls, which will receive 23 of the machines, Rapid City, which will receive 10 and Aberdeen, which will receive four.


Research has shown cardiac damage in as many of one of five COVID-19 patients, leading to heart failure and death even among those who show no signs of respiratory distress. Among patients who recover, many could have long-term effects from such damage, according to a press relase from the Helmsley Charitable Trust.

The rise in cardiac complications caused by COVID-19 exposes both patients and health care workers to greater risk, as hands-on CPR can be needed for extended periods and personal protective equipment can become less effective in keeping the virus from spreading to medical providers.

Rochelle Reider, vice president of patient services at Avera Queen of Peace Hospital, said the Helmsley Charitable Trust has a history of helping rural hospitals. They had provided LUCAS devices for ambulance and emergency departments in South Dakota in years past, and adding more of the equipment will only allow Avera to better serve their patients.

“It’s a chest-compression device that makes it so our staff aren’t doing those compressions. Those compressions take a lot of energy, so we switch people out to make sure we’re providing quality chest compressions,” Reider said. “And with COVID-19, we want as few people in the room as possible.”

Fewer people in the room means a lessened chance of the virus spreading to doctors and other medical staff during the procedure, Reider said, especially if a patient needs to be intubated, which can cause additional spread of the disease through the air.

Reider said the efforts of groups like the Helmsley Charitable Trust are helping Avera and other health systems in their fight against the worldwide pandemic.

“The trust has profoundly affected the way we provide care. It makes us a better facility and allows us to provide better care,” Reider said. “We are very grateful for this trust because they’ve helped drive high quality care in rural America. There are so many things we wouldn’t be doing today if not for their financial support.”

The mechanical CPR devices, which cost an estimated $12,000 each, have been adopted by emergency medical responders and many hospitals around the globe, initially due to its ability to deliver extended CPR in compliance with American Heart Association guidelines. Multiple studies have demonstrated equivalence to high-performance CPR, as well as increased provider safety and higher rates of adequate compressions for patients in transport situations. The United States Department of Defense COVID-19 Practice Management Guide identified the LUCAS chest compression system as the best practice for managing patients in cardiac arrest to reduce the risk of exposure to care providers.


In addition to South Dakota, the Helmsley Charitable Trust is also partnering with medical facilities in North Dakota, Nebraska, Montana and Wyoming to ensure the devices before the peak of the COVID-19 outbreak hits. The devices will remain in place after the pandemic as part of the hospital’s cardiac system of care.

“We were able to go from concept to delivery of the devices in two weeks, and that’s been an incredible effort of teamwork with the manufacturer and the hospitals,” said Panzirer. “It’s wonderful to see competing entities working together during a national crisis for the good of all.”

The Helmsley Charitable Trust has given nearly $33 million in grants to help hospitals and first responders in seven upper-midwestern states purchase over 2,400 LUCAS devices since 2015.

Erik Kaufman joined the Mitchell Republic in July of 2019 as an education and features reporter. He grew up in Freeman, S.D., graduating from Freeman High School. He graduated from the University of South Dakota in 1999 with a major in English and a minor in computer science. He can be reached at
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