Jan 29, 2015
Back in Rhythm

By Mike Phelps

With school back in session, there is no shortage of headlines about automated external defibrillators (AEDs). This month T&C examines AED news from around the country.

According to the American Heart Association, around 310,000 people die each year from coronary heart disease. Most die without ever being hospitalized or admitted to an emergency room due to sudden death caused by cardiac arrest. One way to help prevent such tragedies is with defibrillation, and many state associations and school districts are currently taking steps to put AEDs in schools nationwide. Already, the actions are making an impact.

••• Willis (Texas) High School, and the Willis Independent School District (ISD), has acquired several AEDs through the years either through purchases or donations. But until recently, the units had never been put to use. That changed, though, on Sept. 5, when a student collapsed while playing basketball during a physical education class. A previously undetected genetic defect, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, caused the student’s heart to fail before a Willis High nurse used an AED to shock it back into beating again.

Willis ISD keeps defibrillators on each of its nine campuses and trains all of its nurses and coaches how to use them. Each of the units cost the district about $2,500. “It all paid for itself today,” Superintendent Brian Zemlicka told the Houston Chronicle.

The incident at Willis came about a year after Texas Governor Rick Perry signed Senate Bill 7, which requires every public school in the state to have an AED at the school and available for all University Interscholastic League practices and competitions.

“A defibrillator in every school in Texas will result in more lives saved after sudden cardiac arrest,” Senator Juan Hinojosa, author of Senate Bill 7, said in a press release from the Office of the Governor.

Several other states, such as Maryland, New York, and Michigan also either support the placement of AEDs, or require AEDs to be placed in schools. But in one school district in Florida, the defibrillators’ usage–or lack thereof–is causing quite a stir.

The Sarasota County School District purchased 62 AEDs for its schools in June, but the devices have been stored in a district warehouse ever since, as school officials decide how to use them. The district says it is waiting to develop policies and schedule training sessions before placing the units in the schools, but many find the delays to be troublesome.

“Why is it taking so long?” area parent Teresa Bencie asked the Herald Tribune. “And why aren’t they out? They are putting children at risk. They are going to have an accident.”

Meanwhile, in Mississippi, the school board in the Oktibbeha County School District accepted the donation of two AEDs from the Starkville, Miss., Kiwanis Club. The project is part of a larger movement by the Louisiana-Mississippi-West Tennessee District of Kiwanis International, which has set the goal of placing at least one AED in every school in the district.

Schools in Newton, Kan., may also be receiving defibrillators in the near future. The town’s school system currently has one AED at its high school, but is hoping to place an additional unit at the middle school this year.

“This is something we may never need and hope not to need, but that one time you need it [it is worth having],” school board member John Esau told the Newton Kansan.

In Cumberland County (N.C), the school district has already purchased AEDs to be placed in its high schools and middle schools. Each middle school will receive one unit, while each high school will receive two–with one to be left in the athletic department at all times.

The push in Cumberland County is part of a larger movement by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association to put a defibrillator in every public high school in the state by the end of this school year.

In Bigfork, Mont., the parents of a football player, Jeffrey Bowman, who collapsed during practice last year and died one week later, have filed a lawsuit against Bigfork School District 38, its head football coach, Bruce Corbett, and former activities director Shannon Smith.

According to the lawsuit, Bowman collapsed due to cardiac arrest after practicing in what his parents deemed to be “dangerous conditions.” Bigfork High School has a defibrillator, but it was not on the field the night Bowman collapsed.

“Top doctors have told us that the records we gave Bigfork High show that it was the football practice that caused Jeff to collapse, and that Jeff would have been saved by the use of the school’s defibrillator,” Bowman’s parents, Bob and Theresa said in a statement published in the Flathead Beacon.

According to a report by Frederick O. Mueller, which was produced by the University of North Carolina-based National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research and cited by the Beacon, Bowman was one of 13 football athletes to die during the 2007 season.

“According to the report, the number of indirect heart-related deaths has increased over the years and it is recommended that schools have automated external defibrillators (AED) available for emergency situations,” writes the Beacon’s Keriann Lynch.

Mike Phelps is an Assistant Editor at Training & Conditioning. For more information on AEDs, go to our home page and type: “AED” into the search window.

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