Ellijay man invents CPR tool
Harrill Wood demonstrates on a training mannequin how My CPR Assist –– a new product patented by the Ellijay man –– can be used in a medical emergency. (Contributed photo)
by Michael Andrews
Harrill Wood admits he has a mechanical way of thinking –– a natural curiousness that led to the Ellijay man to research and development jobs with international companies like Planters Nuts and Coca-Cola.
But it wasn’t until after Wood retired that the 71-year-old began what he calls the best work he’s ever done –– developing a portable compression device that can be used to properly administer CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) in training exercises or during an emergency.
Keeping the heart alive
Wood is quick to emphasize the importance of learning CPR as an emergency response procedure. But, he said, applying forceful chest compressions and using mouth-to-mouth resuscitation isn’t always enough to keep a person alive until medical attention can be administered.
“The heart has a lot of resiliency, but the brain doesn’t,”?Wood said. “You have to keep oxygen in the blood and helping the heart (continue pumping) is a way to keep the brain alive.”
That realization led Wood to the invention of a product he calls My?CPR?Assist.
“It’s designed to keep a person alive until the EMTs can get there,” he said.
In 2006, Wood began developing a lightweight, inexpensive tool that would keep a human heart beating until an AED (automated external defibrillator) could be used to shock the organ back into circulation.
“For years, they thought if a person was unconscious and they couldn’t get a pulse, that person was dead. But that’s not the case. You have to breathe for the person. But doing that (by using mouth-to-mouth) slows you down in keeping the blood moving,” said Wood.
My CPR?Assist –– a flexible, foam-encased device about the size of a donut –– was designed to provide equal amounts of pressure with each chest compression.? By doing that, said Wood, one has a better chance of keeping the heart beating and continuing bloodflow through the body.
“It’s designed to force blood out of your heart so more blood can come in,” said Wood. “It has two chambers. The bottom chamber vents, the top chamber doesn’t. The pressure is exerted and the system resets itself (after each click).”
Each compression cycle exerts up to 130 pounds of pressure,? Wood added. Applying measured, even thrusts helps a person administering CPR avoid causing unnecessary injury to ribs or the cardiovascular system. The device is not recommended for use on infants or children under 60 pounds.
“You need approximately 130 pounds of pressure on the chest. If you have too much, you can tear up ribs and rupture arteries,” said Wood. “If you’ve torn up the heart, unless they can (repair) it immediately, that person will die. What you’re trying to do is help that person until EMTs can get there and shock the heart to get a rhythm back in it.”
From prototype to production
After nearly eight years of research and development, which included corresponding with multiple cardiologists, Wood’s patented CPR tool went into production earlier this year.
“It is designed principally for homes,” he said. “Nobody has ever worked on a little device like this for people to use in their home.”
The tool can be used during an emergency, he confirmed, but also as part of training undertaken by those learning how to administer CPR.
“It is primarily a trainer, but it (will do) both. It can teach you how to do CPR chest compressions and it can also be used on the chest in the case of an emergency where CPR needs to be administered,” he added.
While developing the device, Wood practiced on a realistic, professional CPR mannequin with an electronic monitoring console that gauges the effectiveness of chest compressions.
“I have a scale system you put the mannequin on that measures the amount of pressure you exert,” he said. “It is the (same mannequin) that doctors and EMTs train with.”
Wood retired from working as a U.S.D.A. poultry inspector after a stint was installed in his own heart.
“I’ve had heart problems, myself, and formed a group called Heart Smart here at the hospital,” he said. “We (helped) bring in the first?AEDs in the county.”
After he became a licensed CPR instructor for the American Red Cross, Wood’s interest in first aid –– particularly the use of CPR –– intensified.
“After that I couldn’t learn enough,” he said.
Now, after seeing My?CPR? Assist finally become a reality, he wants to use the tool to educate people about how to properly use the procedure.
“If you overdo compressions you have a problem. If you don’t push hard enough you also have a problem,”?he said.
Wood used the “save rate” of a major metropolitan city like Seattle,?Wa., to illustrate how widespread CPR education can lead to more lives being saved.
“Seattle has a 51 percent save rate. The Atlanta-metro area has a 3.7 percent save rate,” he said.?“The difference is that,?in Seattle, people are being educated about how to use CPR to save others. It can save lives, but it has to be administered within the first few minutes.?You can’t just wait for the paramedics to get there.”
Wood stressed that, in the event of an emergency, 911 should be contacted first. “First call 911 ... then assist” is printed on an insert included with the product.
He hopes the low cost of the unit, which retails online for $34.95, coupled with its portability and ease of use will make persons with heart problems or their family members more interested in learning about CPR.
“If we can get this out there to help people and it’s affordable for them to have in their homes, their neighbors will know they have one and they can all learn how to use it,” Wood said. “They may end up working together one day to save a life.”