Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) happens when the heart stops beating without warning due to chaotic impulses in the electrical system of the heart. These chaotic impulses, called arrythmias, stop the blood from being pumped by the heart to the brain and other organs. 500,000 people die every year from SCA. If cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is not immediately followed by automatic external defibrillation death occurs. An AED provides a electric shock to the heart that helps to restore a normal heart rhythm. It has been estimated that one of every 200,000 atheletes will experience SCA. Although statistics have shown that SCA is quite rare among athletes, the sudden death of a student creates a negative impact on the community.
Presently only 72.5 % of schools in North Carolina are equipped with automatic external difibrillators (AED), but more than half of the schools in North Carolina have no planned coordination with Emergency Services. Placing AED’s in schools will increase the survival rate for athletes experiencing SCA. Patients who do not receive CPR followed by defibrillation are 7-10% more likely to die every minute without CPR and defibrillation. When CPR is given the likelihood of a fatality drops to 3-4%. Studies show that a significant drop in fatalities occurs when appropriate emergency medical planning is in place in high schools and AED’s are available for use with CPR.
Cost is the number one reason most schools do not have AED’s available for emergency use. Questions arise about liability for staff members performing defibrillation on students. Laws are in place to protect properly trained staff members when performing defibrillation on a student. New York requires all schools to keep and maintain AED’s for emergency use as well as having a staff member trained to use the AED. Purchasing an AED will cost between $2500 and $4500 when you add in the hidden costs. What is a life worth? In spite of the cost schools should be given automated defibrillators. In Texas Senate Bill 7 mandates an AED in every school campus. Unfortunately, $3.5 million dollars available to Texas schools to be reimbursed for AED purchases made after June 1, 2007 was still unclaimed with the November 15, 2008 deadline approaching.
On the national level thousands of schools are now equipped with AED’s used by staff members trained in CPR and proper use of the AED. Athlete safety is important to the athletes who participate in high school sports, their families, and to the community as a whole. The death of an athlete sparks deep emotional trauma to all students and the community.