Editorial: Caring souls

Two recent events underscore the caring spirit of those around us, with Wilton among the recipients of their generosity. Both will have a direct impact on our health and well-being.

It has taken five years, but the vision of George and Carol Bauer of Wilton became reality last Thursday, Jan. 21, when Norwalk Hospital opened phase one of the Bauer Emergency Care Center.

Built with a generous foundation gift of $2.5 million from the Bauers, the 32,000-square-foot Level II trauma center will ultimately double the footprint of the hospital’s current emergency department, which receives more than 50,000 patient visits annually. The current department was built to handle half that number.

With its welcoming environment, the new Bauer Emergency Care Center features all private rooms. Twenty of 40 in total are now open. There is also a state-of-the-art trauma room for critical injury care and a “vertical care” area to quickly treat less urgent health matters.

This is not the first time the Bauers have funded what we commonly call an emergency room at 34 Maple Street. This center upgrades an emergency department they helped build 20 years ago. Both have given years to the hospital, and Carol Bauer serves as a chaplain there.

In November, Wilton learned it would receive a gift of automated external defibrillators from a Westport couple, MaryGrace and Mark Gudis. They are giving 100 defibrillators to five towns, and Wilton will receive 20 for placement in public places.

Having defibrillators in public spaces is probably one of the most underrated means of improving public health. Quickly using a defibrillator — that means within minutes — to administer an electrical impulse to the heart of a person who has collapsed from sudden cardiac arrest is vital to giving that person a chance to survive.

First Selectman Lynne Vanderslice announced last week they will be placed around town, including near the footbridge on River Road, on the Town Green, and at Ambler Farm. Four will be put into the schools, which already have defibrillators on-site, and the rest will be placed at town athletic fields. Those in schools should be placed in plain sight for easy access, particularly in the evenings, when there may be public meetings.

Vanderslice had the excellent suggestion of putting a training video on the town website to familiarize community members with how a defibrillator works. But Selectman Dick Dubow has rightly lobbied for hands-on training that would help alleviate anyone’s squeamishness about using such a device. He also recommended public “hands-only” CPR training sessions. These used to be offered but were discontinued when public participation waned.

The addition of these devices is a great step forward in public health here, but an even greater step would be if those private businesses and retail establishments that do not already have a defibrillator on hand added them.