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(Continued from EdWorld At Home)

It is a nightmare scenario, and it becomes reality much too often: A
child running up and down a school basketball court or Little League
diamond suddenly suffers cardiac arrest. Before an ambulance can
respond, he or she dies. More than 5,000 children die from cardiac
arrest in the U.S. each year, more than 300 of them while playing
sports, according to Teams of Angels, just one of several organizations
committed to reducing that number by making automatic external
defibrillators (AEDs) widely available at schools and playing fields
across the country.

When the heart goes into arrest, a defibrillator applies a brief electric
shock to return it to normal rhythm. The type of AEDs used in schools is
safe and simple enough to be used by a sixth-grader. When the lid is
open, the defibrillator gives the user commands in a loud, clear voice.
The device won't provide a shock unless it detects a heart in fibrillation,
and it will not issue a shock if the user's body is in contact with the
victim. A recent New England Journal of Medicine study showed that
widespread distribution of the 10-pound defibrillators could double the
survival rate for people who collapse from cardiac arrest.

"The goal is to have the entire population within five minutes of a
defibrillator," Cam Pollock, senior product marketing manager for
Philips Medical, told the Lowell (MA) Sun in August. "The schools are a
logical place." In fact, according to the American Heart Association,
almost one in five Americans, adults and children, can be found in
schools on most days.

Almost 20 percent of schools nationwide already have AEDs.
Supporters of the programs claim that school AEDs have already
helped save 11 lives in New York State alone in the past two years.
Each device costs about $2,000, and its battery only needs replacing
once every four years. "It's one of those things you hope you never have
to use," North Middlesex (MA) Regional School assistant
superintendent Robert Dempsey told the Sun. "But to have it there is

So, should your school have an AED? According to the American Heart
Association’s Medical Emergency Response Plan for Schools, it
should. However, the programs do have their critics. For large school
systems, the costs can run into the millions. But many experts are
convinced that most cases of sudden death in children are the result of
asthma or seizures rather than cardiac arrest. And critics claim that
school AED programs have been launched before systematic studies
could determine their effectiveness. "Do they make a difference or just
make people feel better?" Dr. Lynne Richardson of the department of
emergency medicine at New York City’s Mount Sinai Medical Center
asked the New York Daily News in October.
A defibrillator also can’t help anyone unless school personnel know it’s
there and know how to get to it. A 16-year-old Texas boy died last June
during a gym class because the staff was unaware that an AED sat
nearby – although it turned out to have been in a locked office.
Supporters of AEDs in school say critics are missing the point. The
success of defibrillators is unpredictable, pediatric cardiologist Stuart
Berger told the Dallas Morning News in September. Generally, a
defibrillator is most effective in the first three to five minutes after
and its success rate appears to decrease about 10 percent each
minute. But if the device is not even tried, the prognosis for the victim
almost certain. "If you don't defibrillate somebody immediately, they're
not going to survive," he said.
Teams of Angels
The American Heart Association Medical Emergency Response Plan for Schools
The Gregory W. Moyer Defibrillator Fund

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