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Local fire departments coordinate to save a woman's life — with just minutes to spare

Jul 15, 2023

LACONIA — In a saga involving a go-bag, a hammer and a ticking clock, Laconia and Alton first responders came to the rescue of a Laconia resident just in time.

A Laconia woman was headed back to the Lakes Region from New Durham on July 25 around 8 p.m. when she became aware the power on her LVAD, or left ventricular assist device, was low and she lacked a spare. LVADs are battery-operated pumps surgically implanted to help pump blood through the body of someone experiencing heart failure.

The patient called 911, and the Alton Fire Department was sent to meet her. Meanwhile, Laconia police and fire were dispatched to the woman’s Union Avenue residence with a request to break in and retrieve her spare power source. When they received this call, Fire Chief Tim Joubert said, there were only about 10 minutes remaining before her device would fail, which would be fatal.

When Laconia first responders arrived at the patient’s residence, Joubert recounted, a friend of the woman had already begun trying to break down the door with a sledgehammer.

“We borrowed the hammer and popped the small side window to gain access to the deadbolt,” Joubert described. But because the deadbolt had “been rendered inoperable by the bystander’s first hits,” they were forced to breach the entire door.

Laconia Fire fetched the batteries and raced toward Alton, meeting Alton Fire with the patient at McIntyre Circle.

“When we get the call, there's only 10 minutes left on the battery life. When the battery stops, you die,” Joubert said. After “racing down Union Avenue,” Laconia Fire hand-delivered the batteries to the patient with “I think about four minutes left.”

The patient told Joubert she normally kept a “go-bag” for such circumstances, but had unfortunately left it at home, he recounted.

After evaluation, the patient did not need to be transported to the hospital, and Laconia Fire helped clean up the broken glass at her home.

"I talked to the captain that was on scene,” Joubert said, “and it's just like, ‘Oh my god, you just saved a life.’”

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