Save The Children
It has been reported that as many as 10,000 US children under the age of 18 die from sudden cardiac arrest every year. Most are school age. Most are boys. Most are in their teens. Most arrests occur during or just after strenuous physical activity. Most arrests are caused by a previously undiagnosed congenital heart defect. Most result in death. And all are heart rending and tragic.
It is impossible to imagine the depth of the pain a parent experiences at the loss of a child – especially a young child.
What makes it even more tragic is that many if not most of these deaths could have been prevented if an AED had been nearby and someone; a passerby, coach, team mate, teacher – anyone had utilized it.
Sudden cardiac arrest, unlike a heart attack, occurs suddenly and without warning. The electrical impulses that cause the heart to beat shut down and the heart stops beating. Oxygen rich blood stops flowing through the body. Within 5 minutes the lack of oxygen through blood flow across the brain results in the onset of brain damage which increases minute by minute. Chances of survival are in the 70th percentile if an AED is used within the first 3-5 minutes. By 10 minutes chances of survival are less than 5%. Studies have shown that the chance of survival decreases by 10 percent each minute from the onset of sudden cardiac arrest until death.
CPR can pump some blood through the system (about 25% of normal blood flow) which will slow brain damage somewhat and extend life for a short period of time, but CPR will not restart the heart and is not effective if it is not properly administered. CPR training is essential. But only the electric shock of an AED will restart the heart. And it can be used easily, safely and effectively with no training at all.
Thanks in most part to the publicity following the deaths of too many school age youngsters, 18 states have recognized the lifesaving importance of AEDs and enacted laws mandating AEDs in public and private schools and at school sponsored athletic events. Typically these states also require AED/CPR training for school staff
Maryland and Minnesota require CPR training for students in their schools. Other states are considering similar requirements as prerequisites to high school graduation. Maryland also requires AEDs in schools.
At least 6 states have introduced, but failed to pass bills mandating AEDs in schools over the past 2 years. These proposals have met with general legislative support, but have been unable to progress due to budgetary considerations. Efforts are continuing. The Pennsylvania legislature, among others, is presently considering legislation mandating AEDs in its schools. A New Jersey bill mandating AEDs in schools passed its Assembly unanimously and is pending in its Senate.
California is one of several states that tried, but could only get a bill passed that stated it is the intent of the legislature that every school in the state has an AED. You can’t buy many AEDs with intent, so the public has banded together in California and a number of states to purchase them on their own. Fund raising efforts in memory of children who died but might have been saved by an AED, service organizations, community programs, parent-teacher groups, fire departments, private sector business efforts and many others have been successful in raising many thousands of dollars to get AEDs into the schools. Nonprofit foundations, like The Via Foundation have played a leading role in organizing and assisting the various groups in this effort. AED manufacturers, distributors and training and service providers like Annuvia have also played an important role in granting generous discounts for their goods and services.
It’s heartening that the spirit of generosity and community support and enthusiasm have come together in this effort to save the lives of our most important asset – our children.