Schools have tools to get hearts back beating

From: Gaston Gazette

A woman suffering a heart attack outside Cramerton Middle School two years ago sparked a serious concern. There was no automated external defibrillator at the school to offer immediate shock, in attempt to restore her regular heartbeat. Principal Amy Holbrook said she’s now prepared if that situation happens again.

Although the woman survived, she could’ve been treated faster if the device had been readily available, instead of waiting on police to arrive with one in hand. CaroMont Health and Gaston County Medical Alliance presented one defibrillator to each middle school on Wednesday. The devices will be mounted on walls inside the schools, and used in case of cardiac emergencies.

Holbrook said the situation at her school brought up the question as to why middle schools weren’t equipped with AEDs. CaroMont spokeswoman Dallas Paddon said all public high schools have at least one. “I’m extremely excited,” Holbrook said. “We’re actually going to work on raising some more money to get one in our concession stand for athletic events outside.”

Middle school principals attended a training session to learn about the AED devices on Wednesday. But the technology is so evolved, anyone with good hearing can help someone in need. When the box is opened, a voice talks the person administrating CPR through the process.

Dr. Mark Heckel, a cardiologist with CaroMont, said five years ago, AEDs didn’t walk the person through giving CPR. “It just shocked or not shocked. That was it,” he said. “Now it’s actually telling you what to do… ‘activate 911, start CPR.’” The defibrillators given to the middle schools cost $1,300 each, plus $325 for pads, a metal case, and signage to hang nearby.

Future devices: Paddon said CaroMont is committed to helping distribute AEDs throughout the community. In February, CaroMont donated 28 devices to be installed in Gaston County Sheriff’s Office patrol cars. Heckel said when AEDs were first introduced, they were thought to belong solely in places with a lot of foot traffic, such as airports or casinos.

He said people are now seeing the importance of having them installed in more places. He would like to see them available at local parks, for example. “I think public buildings should have them. Any place where there’s a large gathering of people,” he said.

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