Stephen Czerniej and Bryan Schurko

Other projects include a speech-enhancing device to improve communication for those with disabilities who use a Bipap power-breathing apparatus.

Pulse-checking device helps lifeguards

January 10, 2008

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By Marianne Meadahl

A team of SFU engineering undergraduates has devised an economical way to help lifeguards more accurately assess the condition of potential drowning victims.

The four students—who created Heart Guard Technologies for a fourth-year engineering course—have built a waterproof heart-monitoring system that rescuers can use to determine whether the victim has a pulse. That’s vital information when it comes to deciding if and/or how to apply CPR procedures.

The battery-operated system, contained in a bright yellow case, uses a non-invasive infrared detector that is clipped to the victim’s finger. It can detect a pulse within five seconds and provides an average pulse rate after each subsequent beat.

During a demonstration, (above) students Stephen Czerniej and Bryan Schurko—both lifeguards—showed how the small hand-held device can be used as a victim is being removed from a pool.

“Often, checking for the pulse on victims in hectic environments like water can be difficult because of the stress, temperature and other  surrounding elements,” explains Schurko. He says the national Lifesaving Society is currently looking for ways to improve pulse-checking procedures to limit error during rescues.

“But if victims do in fact have a pulse, that would play a role in how aggressively you approach life-saving measures,” he says. “The device makes it easier to get on with the correct rescue procedure.”

Czerniej says systems with some similarities to the team’s project exist, but he notes that the SFU model is waterproof, easy to use and comes in at just under one-third of the cost.

The team, which includes fellow students John Azer and Vahid Shababi, developed the system for a course led by SFU engineering professor Andrew Rawicz.
Rawicz encourages students in the growing field of biomedical engineering to create marketable projects that benefit society.

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