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Softball to share donated defibrillator

The donated defibrillator will be in the Curling Club in the winter and with softball in the summer. From left to right: Kristen Okeson of St. Mary's EMS, DL Softball Association member Linda Long, Lakes Curling Club President Christopher Steen, and DL Softball Association President Terry Birkeland with the shared defibrillator. (Thressa Johnson/Record)

One of the most important lessons - in life and in sports - is how to share.

It's a lesson that the DL Softball Association and the Lakes Curling Club are putting into practice with the donated defibrillator they will exchange between them.

After a player experienced a sudden heart problem last summer, the Softball Association decided it was time to look into acquiring an automated external defibrillator (AED).

AEDs return the heart to its natural rhythm by delivering an electrical shock to an individual who has an arrhythmia (abnormal change in heartbeat) or is going into cardiac arrest. The shock forces the heart muscles to contract, causing the heart to resume its normal beat.

"We originally did some fundraising in Fargo," Terry Birkeland, president of the DL Softball Association, said. While pursuing a grant that would foot half the bill for a defibrillator, they discovered that the Detroit Lakes Police Department had an extra one.

"They donated the unit and St. Mary's upgraded it," Birkeland said.

With a free defibrillator in like-new condition that they only needed during the summer months, Linda Long, a Softball Association member, gave the Curling Club a call.

"I thought somebody should be using it," she said.

Christopher Steen, president of the Lakes Curling Club, thought it was a great idea.

"We have people go down every once in a while," Steen said, adding that some curlers are in their 70s and that the club often hosts large bonspiels, making it a good idea to have a defibrillator around -- just in case.

The American Heart Association recommends defibrillators be kept in locations that house large numbers of people.

Kristen Okeson of St. Mary's EMS explained that the heart begins to quiver during dangerous irregularities. The quivering lasts a matter of minutes before the heart shuts down, making it "unshockable."

Those first few minutes are vital, meaning that having a defibrillator on site often saves lives.

"It's pretty simple to use," Birkeland said, adding that the instructions inside the case explain the process fully, diagrams included.

Okeson added that the defibrillator, which delivers shocks of 200-350 Joules, is fully automated and will read the patient's size to determine the shock size needed.

Anyone who's learned CPR and first aid should know how to use the device, according to Long, who noted that members of each group were already trained.

The Curling Club finishes its season in March, which means it can hand the defibrillator off to the Softball Association in time for its season to start in April.

"It's just meant to be," Steen said.

The two organizations will split maintenance costs for the defibrillator.

"A big thank to the DLPD and St. Mary's," Long said.

"And thank you to the Softball Association for sharing it," Steen added. "This is definitely a good deal for everybody."