WEST CHICAGO – On April 14, 2012, tragedy struck West Chicago when then-Mayor Mike Kwasman suffered a heart attack at a local restaurant.
Although CPR was performed on Kwasman by friends, including current Mayor Ruben Pineda, he died three days later at Central DuPage Hospital.
Like many other businesses in West Chicago, the restaurant did not have an automated external defibrillator (AED), which West Chicago emergency personnel say may have made a difference.
Hoping to make that difference in residents’ futures, community leaders are encouraging businesses across town to install AEDs.
“AEDs save lives,” said West Chicago firefighter Mike Buenrostro Sr., whose son is helping with the efforts as well.
As part of this campaign being made in Kwasman’s name, Hawthorne’s Backyard Bar and Grill stepped up to lead the pack and hopefully serve as an example to other businesses by getting a defibrillator and having West Chicago firefighters train staff Feb. 27 on how to use it.
Although Hawthorne’s Backyard owner Lou Kopinski said he doesn’t recall any incident occurring at his business in which an AED would have been needed, he believes it is a smart investment and hopes others will follow suit.
“You don’t want it to happen, but it could, and now we’re prepared for it,” he said.
Most businesses in West Chicago do not have an AED, but they are not required to, Buenrostro said. Those who are required include places such as schools, police and fire stations and fitness centers.
Although West Chicago emergency personnel typically reach their targets quickly, response times can be affected by call volume, weather or even a train passing through town and blocking a crossing, Buenrostro said. In instances like those, it could be lifesaving for the scene to have a defibrillator, which is more effective than CPR on its own, he said.
The West Chicago Fire Protection District does not have a way of tracking who in town has an AED, Buenrostro said. He’s hoping to find a way to do that, possibly through a cell phone application or Western DuPage Chamber of Commerce business questionnaire.
Now that the community campaign has gotten its first business to install an AED, Buenrostro and his colleagues are looking to spread the word further, both through the restaurant’s example and other means, as well, including social media and local events such as Railroad Days.
The ultimate goal would be to have an AED in every business in town, Buenrostro said.
These efforts being made in Mike Kwasman’s name are something the late mayor would have led in his lifetime, he said.
Before becoming an alderman and then mayor, Kwasman served on the West Chicago Fire Protection District Board of Trustees, said his wife, Crystal.
He had championed installing AEDs in town, so this campaign helps continue that legacy, she said.
Crystal Kwasman hopes to see more lives saved through these efforts, which she calls “an honor” both to her and her late husband, and she plans to get involved.
“If it’s just one more business and one life, we’ve done our work,” she said.
For more information about AEDs and emergency training, contact West Chicago firefighter Mike Buenrostro Sr. at 630-768-6667 or firstname.lastname@example.org.