A new school year is approaching, and kids are settling in with their classmates for another year of learning and growing. This is an ideal time for parents, educators, and administrators to learn about life saving devices called Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs), why every school should have them on campus, and consider acquiring them for the schools in their communities.
Fewer than 20 states currently have requirements for schools to house AEDs on campus. Of those, only 9 provide funding. Most states have no laws or regulations. This needs to change.
When sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) occurs, the heart’s electrical system is interrupted and oxygen and blood flow are cut off to major organs, including the brain. When this occurs, treatment via an AED within the first 3 minutes is critical to avoid serious neurological damage, or worse, death.
AEDs are life-saving devices that anyone can use to treat a victim experiencing SCA. SCA happens when the heart stops beating suddenly and often without warning.
This is usually caused by a condition called ventricular fibrillation (VF). VF is an abnormal heartbeat that stops blood flow to the brain, heart, and other major organs, rendering a victim unconscious.
When the heart stops beating, death follows within a very short window of time, unless Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) and the use of an AED are administered right away by a bystander.
While CPR can provide some time for the victim until EMS arrives, AEDs are the only devices that can return the abnormal heart rhythm to normal. This must happen quickly, which is why it’s essential for AEDs to be easily accessible, able to be deployed within two to three minutes.
The risk of SCAs in adults is higher than it is in children and young adults, but studies suggest that SCA in children is increasing.
We have all seen the headlines, too often these days it seems, that describe how a football player collapses from SCA during a big game, or a runner falls to the ground just short of the finish line, stops breathing and dies. We assume horrible tragedies like these are just flukes that are, unfortunately, going happen sometimes and are sadly unavoidable.
But they’re not.
These young victims have a good chance of survival if an AED is accessible and a bystander is aware of its lifesaving ability and willing to jump in to perform a rescue.
The American Heart Association (AHA) reports that approximately 7,000 children and young adults lose their lives because of SCA each year. Most American children spend much of their time at school (180 days a year, approximately 8 hours a day).
Because most a young person’s life is spent at school, protecting our children by making sure AEDs are accessible to every school is something that makes perfect sense, and that all states should require.
Most people are surprised to learn that SCA occurs in children and young adults. However, SCA in schools occurs on average in 1 of every 111 schools annually, with the number of incidents varying by age group in the following ways:
A study conducted by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia found SCA to be the leading cause of death in young athletes. A young athlete dies suddenly every three days. Young athletes are twice as likely to suffer SCA than young non-athletes.
Despite these statistics, though, fewer than 20 states have enacted legislation requiring AEDs to be in public schools. Only 9 of these states have provided funding.
School athletic programs must be equipped with AEDs and they should always be present on the sidelines of athletic practices and events.
The main goal must also be for administrators, teachers, and students to be trained in the use of CPR and AEDs. All must be able to identify when a victim is suffering from SCA and how to treat the victim utilizing both CPR and AEDs.
I can only imagine that the impact all students becoming trained in CPR/AEDs would be phenomenal. Think about how many more SCA victims could be saved if every high school graduate entered their workplaces and communities carrying this knowledge along with them.
The main barrier between AEDs and schools is the cost due to state budgetary limitations. But, considering that an AED can be purchased for around $1,000 with very low-cost maintenance, battery and pad replacements when expired, and the number of years AEDs last, it is much more costly to lose young lives unnecessarily.
AEDs are not free. But there are ways for schools to acquire them through resources that are willing to assist with the cost. Donations from organizations in the community like churches, local donors like hospitals and local businesses, and groups like the Kiwanis Clubs or rotary clubs may be willing to help.
Parents, most of all, could be a great source for donations, especially if their child is a member of an athletic organization at the school. Educated parents who want nothing more than safety for their kids while they are at school would help them understand how important AEDs are.
Student athletes should have thorough heart screenings as part of their physical exams. The combination of proper screenings for heart conditions before playing sports, housing AEDs in schools, and training staff and students in life saving techniques could turn things around in the right direction for young SCA victims.
A mother who lost her young daughter tragically to SCA put this into proper perspective when she stated the following:
“All screenings, diabetes, cholesterol, colonoscopies, mammograms, prostate tests, those screenings are done why? Because they save lives,” Lopez-Anderson said. “We’re talking about doing a screening for the most vital organ in the body, for youth, to identify this so we can take the proper actions.”
At AED USA, we are dedicated to saving the lives of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) victims through our mission of spreading awareness about the ease-of-use and availability of AEDs. We hope that through awareness and education more states will require AEDs in schools, increasing their availability.
We are talking about our youth here. They count on us to protect them, and SCA is a condition that does not have to rob people, both young and old, of their lives. Treatment is available and we only lack awareness and accessibility. At AED USA, we are working on this daily.
Let’s make sure we are doing all we can to educate our communities, political leaders, and educational leaders on the significance of these life-saving devices. We must push for increasing AED accessibility for the protection of all school children and young adults.
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