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Self-styled philanthropist works to save hearts, lives

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By Gene Sears

Sometimes, the best motivation for doing good is to suffer some hard times, coming out stronger as a result.
    Working from a personal space where she needed to heal, Karen Lohmann found a measure of solace in helping others. Her plan? To ensure that people everywhere, especially children, had ready access to a defibrillator, in times of emergency.
    Sudden cardiac arrest kills an estimated 300,000 Americans every year, including about 7,000 children.
    Defibrillation is a common treatment for life-threatening heart irregularities such as SCA that often result in death without immediate treatment. Defibrillation consists of delivering a therapeutic dose of electrical energy to the affected heart with a device called a automated external defibrillator, or AED.
    “I prayed to God for an answer to help me heal, and I woke up one day with the idea,” Lohmann said. “So that is what I started doing. I bought a couple defibrillators, one for Eaton Free Church, and one for Eaton CrossFit because I really love that, and sometimes people have a hard time breathing, not knowing the situation. I found out when I donated to CrossFit that the schools don’t have them. I thought that was something they had and had to have, and they do not.”
    The omission led Lohmann to begin putting together funding for Eaton Middle School
    “I planned on remaining anonymous,” Lohmann said “But when I went over to talk to the nurse, she was so happy and excited, she wanted one in every school. That’s how it started. Her excitement and her happiness. I decided I would try and figure out how we could make that wish come true.”
    Approaching the school district, a plan took shape where Lohmann would collect the funds, then transfer them to the district for the purchase. The idea freed Lohmann from the need to register with the state as a charitable organization, an unnecessary headache that she simply didn’t want to burden herself with.
    Harvey Green from the Eaton Lions Club offered some funds from the group, and some sage advice moving forward, which Lohmann took to heart.
    “Harvey really encouraged me to continue with this,” Lohmann said. “He said, “Why don’t you do the 9News Health Fair?”
    Putting together and awareness booth for the fair, staffing it and hearing positive feedback helped Lohmann make the decision to press forward with her mission to provide defibrillators to other schools in the region. Planning on Brighton’s 27J District as the next logical target for her efforts, (Lohmann is owner of County Line Secure Storage in Brighton) she happily discovered the district already had the units in place.
    Next stop was Fort Lupton’s RE-8 District, where only the high school had a defibrillator in place. With funding the issue, Lohmann went with some generous friends, and an ally in the cause, the American Red Cross.
    “I tried to get them through the Red Cross, who had a grant for 47 percent off on defibrillators, (down from the regular price of over $2,000) which was another reason I thought it would be a great time to get these in the schools,” Lohmann said. “I had raised that much in my business, with customers and with family members. Scruffy Outlaw Custom Werks owners John and Cathy Tenorio donated enough for at least one, and a little bit more, in memory of Jeremy Tenorio, their son who died. They have also done a lot of scholarships.”
    When the money ran out for the Red Cross grant, I found Sue Edson, from Heartbeat Colorado. She sells the defibrillators at her cost, which is even less than I had to pay. So everything seemed to fall into place, even though there were struggles.
    Weld RE-8 District Nurse Paula Samide confirmed the installation of the devices, now present throughout the district.
    “They are actually in all the schools, I have them in hand,” Samide said. “The only school that doesn’t is the middle school because they are going to undergo construction, so we are trying to figure out a place where we can get to it. It will likely end up in the main office, at least temporarily.”
    According to Samide, the need is there not only for the kids, but also for those who love and care for them as well.
    “Maybe not so much in our district, but in other districts, we have seen a higher incidence of kids needing something like during sporting events,” Samide said.  “Also, we use a lot of our buildings for community events. They are always nice to have for that, too.”
    With the defibrillators comes the need for training on their use, and other CPR techniques associated with the use of the equipment. That training is something Samide intends to accomplish herself when school returns to session in the fall.
    “I am going to handle all the training,” Samide said. “I did a short training bit for the administrators early in the year, and then before school starts, everyone comes back and they get trained on AED’s and hopefully CPR and first aid too. I’m going to train everybody.”
    “Since I’m the only nurse in the district, I kind of need the help,” Samide added, laughing. “But with an AED, really the only thing you have to remember is to turn it on, because an AED will walk you through the steps. All AED’s talk to you. It will tell you exactly what you need to do. It tells you when to stand clear, when to shock, when you start CPR, it tells you the whole nine yards. It’s wonderful.”

Contact Staff Writer Gene Sears at gsears@metrowestnewspapers.com.