AIKEN - Elvin Jones repaid a debt of gratitude Thursday to Sheriff Mike Hunt and the makers of a lifesaving gadget the size of a breadbox.
The five-pound automated external defibrillator brought the 66-year-old restaurant owner back to life after he went into sudden cardiac arrest near the Woodside Plantation golf course on a summer day two years ago.
Sheriff Hunt, then an officer of the Aiken Department of Public Safety, was one of the emergency responders who applied the shock.
"After Mike was elected sheriff, he came into the restaurant, and we were talking about that," said Mr. Jones, the owner of Eejay's Restaurant in Aiken. "I told him I would like to contribute in some way."
Mr. Jones bought for the sheriff's office one of five new defibrillators unveiled during a Thursday news conference. The sheriff's office follows the lead of the Aiken Department of Public Safety, North Augusta Department of Public Safety and many sheriff's departments throughout South Carolina in supplying its road officers with defibrillators.
"Our deputies are trained and ready," Sheriff Hunt said. "Quite frankly, I hope this is a tool we never have to use, but we have it if we need it."
Mended Hearts, a patient support group, and the University of South Carolina Aiken paid for the other four Philips-brand HeartStart defibrillators, which cost about $1,700 each.
Medical officials say "save rates" for heart attack victims have increased substantially since portable defibrillators such as the HeartStart have become more widely available in the past six years or so.
"We know getting to them in the first four to six minutes increases chances of survival by 30 percent," Aiken County EMS Director Phil Clarke said. "All CPR is doing is sustaining a person until we can get the electricity to them."
In a county as rural and spread-out as Aiken, the more first responders equipped with defibrillators, the better, Mr. Clarke said.
"It will help, particularly if a deputy is closer to a call than we are," he said.
Mr. Jones doesn't need convincing.
"I'm sold on them," he said.
Reach Stephen Gurr at (803) 648-1395, ext. 110,