AEDs Few and Far Between in Memphis Despite Law


Strange as it may seem for two men whose hearts had abruptly stopped beating, but Kenneth Richmond and George Turner consider themselves lucky.

Richmond, then a 40-year-old Memphis firefighter, happened to be in the office of Bon Lin Middle School in Bartlett picking up his kids in 2009 when he collapsed from sudden cardiac arrest. It turned out that Bon Lin and other Shelby County Schools had just been equipped with automated external defibrillators.

Turner, 56, a prisoner in the DeSoto County Detention Center, was playing basketball earlier this month when he "fell out," as he describes it, from cardiac arrest. Less than three years ago, officials had purchased AEDs for their jail facilities.

Because there were AEDs available, and people ready to use them, Richmond and Turner were sore but alive after having their hearts shocked back into proper rhythm.

Sean Patrick O'Hara, on the other hand, wasn't so fortunate.

An athletic 21-year-old Ole Miss student from Hernando, he was studying for finals on Dec. 2, 2007, when he was stricken, falling facedown in his Oxford apartment from what proved to be a fatal cardiac arrest. Although it's unknown whether an AED could have saved O'Hara, the police officers who were the first emergency responders to arrive did not have one.

"They had to wait until the paramedics got there to do anything," says his mother, Dawn Cartwright.

The three incidents underscore what health officials describe as an exasperating problem: Despite private initiatives and laws in several states designed to make AEDs more accessible and better maintained, the devices remain unevenly distributed and monitored and often hidden or locked up from potential rescuers.

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