Most of us are aware that sudden cardiac arrest occurs in adults, young and old. If fact, over 450,000 people suffer and die from the malady in this country alone.
However, what most folks don’t know is that 7,000 to 10,000 of that number are children. About 7 percent of sudden cardiac arrest victims are under 30 years of age and 3.5 percent are under eight years old. Do the math.
In its infinite wisdom, New York state over the years has been a leader in requiring Automated External Defibrillators (AED) placed in most places where people congregate and train AED volunteers and the like who can operate them. And that includes our schools, where our children are at risk for sudden cardiac arrest, too.
Reasons a child might suffer such a life-threatening event: a sudden blow to the chest or a congenital defect. Many congenital heart defects can go undetected.
Sudden cardiac arrest occurs when there is an interruption to the rhythm of the heart’s electrical system. Called ventricular fibrillation, treatment needs to begin within three to five minutes of the attack. Otherwise, brain damage and death can occur.
While cardio-pulmonary resuscitation alone can’t restart a victim of sudden cardiac arrest, the AED has become literally a life-saver. It alone can fibrillate the heart. Equipping schools with the device is the only way to ensure that children suffering an event can receive the treatment they need within the critical treatment window.
It became tremendously apparent how important the device is at the Peru High School in March when a school-board member collapsed following an evening executive-session meeting. Board members and administrators quickly retrieved one of the school’s AEDs, hooked the victim up and were able to restart his heart.
Modern AEDs are lightweight and easy to use. Most are portable and have sensors that tell the emergency first-responder if a shock is needed and when it should be done.
They key is to have enough of them in larger buildings and people trained to exact the procedure.
More and more recreation complexes are setting up AEDs. In fact, the Peru Fire Department donated a unit to the Peru Youth Commission this spring and efforts are under way to site the device at the Laphams Mills Recreation Park and train commission members and volunteers in its use.
Having AEDs in schools not only ensures that students are protected, but that staff and school visitors are, too. And the same should apply to other buildings and outside venues in the North Country.