For the seventh time in five years, an Oak Park or River Forest resident’s life has been saved by the use of an automatic external defibrillator (AED). That’s a point of pride for the Oak Park Fire Department, which began pushing for the acquisition and use of the devices years ago.

On March 3, fire department units responded to the Fitness Formula Club at 1114 Lake Street. Paramedics found a 59-year-old man who’d suffered sudden cardiac arrest and fallen off an elliptical fitness machine. He was unresponsive.

Luckily for the man, someone called 911 while Fitness Club staff and other members of the club immediately began working together to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Key to their effort was an onsite Automatic External Defibrillator. The AED detected a shockable cardiac rhythm and prompted a command to shock the patient.

“The patient was shocked once prior to EMS arrival,” said Oak Park Deputy Chief Mark Puknaitis. “The paramedic unit followed up with full advanced cardiac therapy and transferred the patient to West Suburban Hospital Medical Center where a follow up on March 4 revealed that the patient was recovering.”

Such happy endings are precisely what the AED is designed to produce. The devices, which read a patient’s cardiac rhythm, tell the user if and when to shock a patient.

“It’s a great piece of equipment that bridges the time gap [between the call and the arrival of paramedics] and gives patients a greater chance of survival,” said Fire Chief William Bell. “All our police cars have AEDs in their trunks.”

Oak Park purchased 112 AEDs with the help of state grant money that brought the per-unit cost down to roughly $1,200. The fire department then made the devices and training available to doctor’s offices, restaurants, schools and health clubs.

“The fire department goes out on a semi-annual basis and tests the devices,” said Bell.

Training on the AED take only 15-20 minutes, Bell said. “They’re fairly easy to operate. It works on its own. You just have to apply the pads. The AED does the rest.”

The Oak Park Fire Department offers civilian classes on CPR and the use of AEDs the first and second Wednesday of each month. Classes begin at 6 p.m. and last four hours.

Instruction is free, but the classes fill up quickly.

Interested individuals can call 445-3300 for more information, or go to the fire department’s website at

Join the discussion on social media!