An AED for Every School:New National Legislation Being Introduced
- Posted on: 5/3/08
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How did the idea of putting automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in all Ohio schools come about? How did you get started?
About eight years ago, Josh Miller, a 15-year-old high school football player from Barbarton, Ohio, ran off the football field on a Friday night and collapsed. He died of a sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). I had the unfortunate experience of watching the videotape of his death, and it was the most sickening thing I ve ever seen in my life. It was like going to a movie that you had seen a 100 times before and knew exactly how it was going to end, but you were hoping and praying it would end differently. In that normally boisterous stadium you could hear a pin drop, except for the wail of his mother it was a sound that reverberated in my soul.
At the time, I was then President of the local chapter of the American Heart Association (AHA). I served on a panel with Josh s father several months later, and as we talked about how we could prevent this from happening again in our community, a TV reporter approached us and said Mr. Miller, these AED devices cost over $3,000 don t you think that s a lot of money? Mr. Miller, who is a man of few words, looked at me as he responded you know, it doesn t seem like a lot of money to me. It was like a bolt of lightening had gone through me. I thought, you know, he s right it s not a lot of money. So I went on a mission to raise money to put an AED in every junior high and high school in Summit County. We ultimately succeeded in that endeavor, and the AHA named me their National Physician of the Year as a result of that. I say that not as an accolade to myself, but as a testament to the mission.
I then thought to myself Why are we stopping here? I joined a group called the National Center for Early Defibrillation, which was amalgamated with people who had done similar initiatives, although most of them were people who had lost their children to cardiac arrest. Some of the people I met were John and Karen Acompora, who lost their son Louis in 2000. Louis died from commotio cortis after being struck in the chest by a lacrosse ball during a game. The Acomporas turned their tragedy around when they helped create the Louis Law, which required that every high school in the state of New York have an AED.
Later John Acompora and I went to Capitol Hill to discuss the issue of AEDs in schools, but it became clear to us that if we weren t one of the congressperson s or senator s constituents, they couldn t help us. The common thread was that this had to be done at a grassroots level. Even after what we accomplished in Summit County, nobody two counties over knew anything about our initiative. To have every community in the country have this manifest was a virtual impossibility. Usually when there is a death of a child, schools are more open to having AEDs; however, for those schools that haven t had that happen to them, it can at times be difficult to convince them to purchase an AED. I needed a plan.
Were you aware of any other states that had similar AED programs for schools?