JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Did you know that Duval County teachers are not required to be certified in CPR?
Did you know that most elementary schools in the county do not have a life- saving device that can save a child in sudden cardiac arrest?
We've uncovered these details in a series of stories we've reported in the last several months. Since then, we have been asking Duval County Public Schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti why these machines are not in every single school.
We are still waiting to hear from the school district about whether Vitti's request to add $100,000 dollars to the budget to buy these devices will be approved by the school board. We have been waiting for the answer for nearly two weeks.
Sudden cardiac arrest is one of the leading causes of death among children and teenagers. This kind of heart attack has happened to four local teenagers in our area in the last five years. Two of them died. The other two survived because an AED, an automated external defibrillator, was nearby.
Fifteen-year-old Andrew Cohn died at a Westside baseball field when another player's elbow hit him in the chest during a game. He collapsed and died. There was no AED at the ball field. That has since changed. But many, many fields still do not have these life-saving devices.
Eighteen-year-old Phillip Jackson collapsed during a basketball game at Sandalwood High School nearly five years ago. He suffered sudden cardiac arrest and died. The school, at the time, did not have an AED.
Seventeen-year-old Megan Leitner collapsed last December playing basketball at St. Joseph Academy in St. Augustine. The school has an AED in the gym. It saved her life.
An athlete in Camden County collapsed in sudden cardiac arrest playing a game. Thanks to a foundation started by Cohn's parents, his school had an AED. It saved his life.
What is an A.E.D.?
An automated external defibrillator is a device that shocks the heart so that it will start beating in the correct rhythm. A blow to the heart, an enlarged heart, or a genetic abnormality to the heart are just some of the reasons why a child or adult's heart can start to quiver or shake causing it to stop pumping blood to the body. Signs a person has suffered a sudden cardiac event is loss of consciousness, no pulse and no breathing.
The device is considered by many to be foolproof. It gives verbal commands to whomever uses it, explaining step-by-step where to place pads on a person's chest and what to do next. It also talks a person through the process of performing CPR. There are no buttons to push on the machine and it will not deliver a shock unless a person's heart has truly stopped beating.
Why aren't these devices in every school and at every ball field?
Money. The device costs between $900-$1,200. Parents and sports recreational leagues are often unaware of the danger sudden cardiac arrest in children and teenagers. Many assume only adults are susceptible. The reality is that an AED needs to be administered within three to five minutes in order for an 85 percent success rate. The machines need to be close and there needs to be a plan in place as to how to respond quickly if someone collapses in sudden cardiac arrest.
There are two organizations that donate these life-saving machines. AED alliance was founded by Harold and Betsy Cohn after their son's untimely death. Click here to learn more about AED donations and about a program the Cohn's have started to allow groups to borrow the device. Firehouse Subs also offers these machines through donation. Click here to learn about the grant program.
AED recently donated to Atlantic Beach Elementary School:
After our stories, the Cohns donated an AED to Atlantic Beach Elementary School. Last Monday, teachers were trained how to use it and also given instruction on performing CPR. Firefighter Stuart Sullivan teaches the class for $15 a person. The school's PTA funded the event. Sullivan offers short classes explaining how to use the device and perform CPR. He also offers certification classes, which last between 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours. If you would like to hire him to teach a class at your school or to your group you can email me at: email@example.com.
AEDs in area schools:
Here's what we have been able to gather about which schools have these life-saving machines on campus. According to the Duval County School District, all middle and high schools have at least one of these devices. Only a handful of elementary schools have an AED.
All St. Johns County schools have at least one AED, according to the district.
All Clay County schools except some of its elementary schools, have at least one AED, according to a school spokesperson.
All Nassau County schools have at least one AED.