February 17, 2021 • North Haven, CT
As a member of the marketing team at Defibtech, LLC, in Guilford, Birch Bidwell learned that his company offered a program to its employees that allows them to make a donation of an automated external defibrillator (AED) to a non-profit or organization of the employee's choice. Last year, Birch used the perk to benefit Green Acres Elementary School and this year, he reached out to First Selectman Mike Freda.
"I asked Mr. Freda if he had an idea of where the donation would make the most sense and he talked to the fire chief," says Birch. "It's definitely a nice benefit that Defibtech is interested in philanthropic efforts. I'm hoping to stay with the company for a while and plan use more donations for our town."
Birch has worked with Defibtech for the past seven years. Over the past several years, the company has been focusing more on raising awareness for sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) and the importance of having AED machines accessible. According to the American Heart Association, SCA kills more than 350,000 people annually in the U.S.
"We're trying hard to raise awareness as there's no way to prevent sudden cardiac arrest," says Birch. "It's something that can happen to anybody at any time and the most critical thing is time. You have about seven minutes to get a life-saving shock, so that's why we need more AEDs around."
While Birch now sees the importance of AEDs and the mission of his company, this is the first time he has held a job in the medical field. As a lifelong artist, when Birch went to college, he combined his love of art with his passion for video games and computers to study graphic design.
"I did a lot of painting in college and it was wonderful to start painting on the computer because the paint never dried and it's convenient when you're in a small apartment," says Birch. "I've not been working in this industry for almost 30 years and it's just amazing how far technology has come since then."
Over the years, Birch has worked in graphic design and marketing. In addition to his graphic design, his role at Defibtech also includes photography, videography, and video editing.
Birch came to Defibtech, which is based in Guilford with a manufacturing facility in Branford, thanks to his former boss. The pair had worked together for 11 years and after getting a job at Defibtech, his former boss encouraged Birch to join the company as well.
"We were so used to working together that he wanted my skills in this position," says Birch. "Because this was my first job in the medical field, there was a big learning curve. Working with the FDA, there's a lot of documentation and a lot of hurdles in order to have things approved."
Birch creates literature and videos for Defibtech and while at past jobs, Birch was able to almost immediately get approval on his designs, his designs now need to meet regulatory and quality approvals.
Since the onset of COVID, Birch has been working from home. Though he lived with his mom in Madison from 2nd- to 8th grade, he has spent the rest of this life in North Haven. He and his son, Aaron, live in a home that has been in his family for many years.
Birch's house, which sits on more than three acres overlooking Sleeping Giant State Park, was first used by his great-grandparents as a summer cottage. Birch lived in the house growing up and remember spending time with his great-grandmother, who lived in an in-law apartment at the time. At one time, his great-grandmother was the oldest living woman in the United States.
"She died just before her 115th birthday and she really took care of herself for many, many years—it was just incredible," says Birch. "It's a great little spot and I love the location. This property has always been important to me."
Birch has seen the property through different updates over the years as his parents did an addition when he was young and an old garage was taken down. Most recently, Birch had a barn installed on the property.
The barn not only serves as a garage space and storage for his tractor and tools, but also as a studio. Though Birch has not been actively creating art, he has continued to use his creativity in different ways, such as through photography and woodworking.
"Preparing for construction and working on the interior of barn has taken a bunch of time," says Birch. "It's a great space because it's large with tall ceilings for photo shoots and little by little, I'm building a nice woodworking shop in there."
The barn also gave Birch the opportunity to share some of his family's history. With the property having been in the family for generations, the Bidwell family has amassed a collection of antique saws and tools that Birch has used to decorate the barn, a nod to his great-grandfather and grandfather, who was one of the state's top foresters.
In addition to raising his son, outfitting the barn, and working, another thing that has kept Birch busy this year has been storm cleanup. With such a large property, he notes there is always something to do and that list became even longer after the tornado hit North Haven, taking down nearly 50 trees on his property.
Even with the demands of owning a large property, Birch has a love of nature that he has carried on from his family. Growing up on the property, Birch and two of his neighbors always enjoyed spending time outside together. Those neighbors are still there and also have sons who are about Aaron's age.
"It's like the trio is together again," says Birch. "They spend a lot of time outside. Aaron has always been really interested in nature—that's something my father instilled in him as well as in me."
With the increased demand in creating awareness for SCA and the need for AEDs, Birch has found that the demands from his work have also increased. Despite the challenges, Birch is happy to be a part of a company that helps save lives.
"It's super rewarding to work in the sort of a field where you feel like you're making some difference," says Birch. "It goes back to the idea, more and more, that there's more awareness for these types of devices and that every AED out there counts."