New program offers free access to AEDs

Several counties can rent AEDs free of charge for trips or events

By Elizabeth Campbell - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A new program was announced Thursday that brings more access to life-saving defibrillators.

Two people really behind this effort are the parents of 15-year-old Andrew Cohn. The St. Marys, Ga., teen collapsed and died in 2010 during a baseball game.

Andrew (pictured below) died of sudden cardiac arrest, and he could have survived if an AED were at the baseball field where his heart suddenly stopped beating after he collided with another player while running to first base.

"In most cases it's an undiagnosed heart condition, but in Andrew's case, he was perfectly healthy, it was just the collision to the chest," Becky Cohn said.

The Cohn family wants to turn the tragedy into something positive by trying to prevent any other family from going through the tragedy they did.

"A call to action for other communities throughout the nation to emulate that we need to escalate bystander CPR and AED usage and having public access to defibs," said Harold Cohn, Andrew's father.

Harold and Becky Cohn said they're honored to be a part of the AED Borrow Program. The couple founded the AED Alliance after their son died at the age of 15.

"It's a roller coaster, and the biggest thing is, we didn't know it's the No. 1 killer in youth under 18," said Harold Cohn.

The new program will be coordinated by the Jacksonville Sports Medicine Program and will provide public access to life-saving AEDs in five of Jacksonville's surrounding counties, allowing travel teams, church groups and anyone hosting a gathering to borrow the device at no cost.

"In conjunction with CPR, the defib is virtually a necessity to help someone recover from sudden cardiac arrest," said Robert Sefcik, of the Jacksonville Sports Medicine Program. "It's the leading cause of sports-related death, and having an AED on hand for sporting events is a very prudent decision by any organization offering sports activities."

Sefcik said AEDs cost on average around $1,800, making it tough for some schools and organizations to purchase.

The Cohns said when there's a need, it's amazing what the community can do to help; this AED borrow program being a prime example.

"We have public access to defibs within the first two or three minutes of an event," Harold Cohn said. "So when we learned that we said this is bigger than us, bigger than Andrew, we need to think of ways to expedite getting these into the communities and safeguarding our kids."

The AEDs will be available for rent, at no charge, at 10 locations throughout Duval, Nassau, Baker, Clay and St. Johns counties:

  • Heartland Amelia Island, located at 96279 Brady Point Road, Suite B, Jacksonville, 904-261-7878
  • Heartland Middleburg, located at 2710 Blanding Blvd., Suite 305, Jacksonville, 904-282-8640
  • Heartland Northside, located at 1215 Dunn Ave, Suite 6, Jacksonville, 904-751-2000
  • Preferred Physical Therapy, located at 1835-16 E. West Pkwy., Orange Park 904-215-3958
  • Progressive Step PT, located at 720 St. John's Bluff Road N., Jacksonville, 904-646-1144
  • Select PT, located at 8101 Southside Blvd., Jacksonville, Jerry Stevens, 904-928-1133
  • Cora Rehab Westside, located at 6248 103rd St., Jacksonville, Jamie Kennedy, 904-573-0046
  • Baker County EMS, located at 1190 W. Macclenny Ave., Macclenny, David Richardson, 904-259-0229
  • Atlantic Coast PT, located at 13595 Atlantic Blvd., Suite B, Jacksonville, Eva McAllister, 904-221-4046
  • St. Johns County Fire Rescue, located at 3657 Gaines Road, St. Augustine, Greta Hall, 903-209-1733

It's simple to rent an AED; all you need is a driver's license and a CPR certificate.

The Cohns also encourage everyone to get CPR and AED certified. They said bystanders become the first responders in situations where an AED is needed.

News4Jax covered the incredible story of Megan Leitner earlier this year. The St. Johns County teenager also suffered sudden cardiac arrest. She is alive today because of an AED that was in her school gym.

Most high schools and middle schools have at least one on campus. The Cohns are working to get one in every single school in the nation by 2017.

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