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Hospital Volunteers at Knapp Medical Center donate devices to shock patient’s heart back into rhythm

WESLACO – The Weslaco Police Department has become one of the first – if not the first — police departments in the Valley to be equipped with life-saving defibrillators, which can be used to shock a person’s heart back into beating normally again after a heart attack.

This is great news for Weslaco residents – because often police are the first to arrive at the scene where a person is having a heart attack. This will allow Weslaco police to administer this life-saving treatment — when every minute counts — until Emergency Medical Services personnel arrive at the scene.

Weslaco police officers were trained on use of the defibrillators in Sept. 2017. A total of 12 defibrillators were donated to the Weslaco Police Department by hospital volunteers from Knapp Medical Center in Weslaco. The Knapp Volunteer Auxiliary holds fundraisers throughout the year – including a popular $5 jewelry sale — and operates a gift shop on the first floor of the hospital, and uses proceeds to benefit important projects involving the hospital.

By carrying defibrillators in their vehicles, Weslaco police officers can increase the survival rate of victims of sudden cardiac arrest, and more lives will hopefully be saved each year. It is critical that defibrillation be done within minutes of the onset of a heart attack — because every minute that passes increases the likelihood of brain damage or death.

Consider this scenario: a Valley woman suffers a sudden cardiac arrest while driving her car. Her car veers off the road and crashes, and a passing motorist calls 911. Within a couple of minutes, a police officer arrives on the scene and uses the defibrillator to re-start the heart. By the time an ambulance arrives a couple of minutes later, her heart is already beating normally, and EMS continues care for her on the way to the hospital. Because of the quick action by the police officer, the patient survives with no permanent brain damage.

Dr. Robert Sepulveda, Internal Medicine Physician in Weslaco and Chair of the Continuing Medical Education Committee for Knapp Medical Center, has done educational presentations for the community at Knapp Medical Center on the importance of knowing what to do and taking immediate action when a person goes into sudden cardiac arrest. This includes calling 911 immediately and beginning cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) until emergency medical technicians arrive – as well as use of defibrillators.

Studies have shown the importance of starting CPR within four minutes or sooner — and using an automated external defibrillator within 10 minutes – to give the person a better chance to live.
Dr. Sepulveda was also involved in starting the Valley’s first Advanced Cardiac Life Support training center at Knapp Medical Center.

Rene J. Lopez, FACHE, RRT, MD, Chief Executive Officer for Knapp Medical Center, thanked the hospital volunteers with the Knapp Auxiliary for the “great gift” of donating the defibrillators to the community.

“Any of us may need to have this available at some time in our life,” Mr. Lopez said. “This will benefit all of us in the community.”

For more information on CPR and other educational classes which are held at Knapp Medical Center, please contact the Knapp Education Department at (956) 969-5455 or e-mail Mitty Reyna at

For more information on the work of the Volunteer Auxiliary at Knapp Medical Center, please call Imelda Ambriz, Volunteer Services Manager, at 956-973-5144 or visit our volunteer page.

Dr. Robert Sepulveda, fifth from left, Internal Medicine Physician in Weslaco, speaks on the importance of defibrillators in helping people to survive heart attacks, while hospital volunteers with Knapp Medical Center present a donation of the life-saving devices to the City of Weslaco Police Department.