A non-profit that has provided defibrillators to schools, churches and businesses in McLean County for two decades is shutting down at the end of the year.
Illinois Heart and Lung Foundation Executive Director Lisa Slater said the coronavirus pandemic was a “catalyst for change” that made it difficult to run health education and training programs, or raise money.
“That really in many ways was one of the big deciding pieces. We weren’t able to effectively bring in money on a regular basis just to keep things going,” Slater said.
She said the foundation plans to give its remaining funds to the Carle Center for Philanthropy to continue heart and lung health awareness in McLean County. She said that will likely be less than $40,000.
She said it's important to keep the foundation's mission alive since the long-term health impacts of COVID-19 are still largely unknown.
“It seems pretty clear that this disease is not kind to the lungs or the heart,” she said. “We’ll have new training programs. We’ll have new education that needs to be delivered to the community.”
Slater had been on the job less than a year when the pandemic hit. Her efforts to expand access to defibrillators, and AED and CPR training came to a standstill. Slater said the 20-year-old organization faced some tough decisions.
“In the end, the (IHLF) board realized that probably our best bet was to say ok, we’ve had a good run here,” Slater said.
She also planned to expand access to defibrillators through the PulsePoint app and offer more AED and CPR training, but it was unclear how long the organization would have to wait for that to be possible again. She also wanted to expand CPR training for women by creating vests that replicate a female torso.
Slater said women are more likely to die from a heart attack because people are more reluctant to administer CPR on a woman.
“They didn’t know if they were supposed to do it the same way that they do on a male torso. They didn’t want to be seen as taking a shirt off this person or open it up,” Slater said.
Slater said the foundation’s legacy will be the physicians who came together to form the organization two decades ago.
“I think that story is kind of touching. You had a young group of cardiologists and pulmonologists that felt like it was their duty to perform acts of philanthropy in the community,” she said.
Slater said those doctors helped raise awareness than anyone could be called upon at anytime to help save a life.
“Sudden cardiac arrest isn’t a rare thing. It happens more frequently than people realize. If you know what to do in those initial minutes before medical personnel are able to arrive, that’s huge,” she said.
Slater added the foundation’s annual women’s health night, which later became the Family Health Expo, got the community interested in learning about their personal health.
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