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Schools: Invest in lifesaving automatic external defibrillators

Citizen Staff Writer
Our Opinion

With public school systems scraping for every dollar these days, some cost-benefit analysis is in order.

Athletic trainer salary? $40,000.

Automated external defibrillator? $1,500.

The life of a student? Priceless.

That’s the lesson learned Monday, when a sophomore football player fainted, collapsed and went into cardiac arrest at Cienega High School.

Emilio Martinez, 17, would have died Monday, doctors say, if not for athletic trainer Deana Schneider and the automated external defibrillator (AED) she insisted the school purchase last July.

But Schneider calmly sprang into action with the AED and saved Emilio’s life.

The teen was released Friday from University Medical Center after successful surgery Thursday for his ventricular fibrillation, reports Nemer Hassey, assistant principal at Cienega.

The school requires every head coach to learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation and first aid, which typically includes a briefing on use of the AED.

But that magical piece of machinery is virtually foolproof, Hassey advises. “It won’t let you do something wrong. It takes you through every step, and it’ll tell you if something goes wrong,” he notes.

Some high schools in Pima County don’t have any AEDs, though, and that deficiency clearly must be addressed now.

“Every single school should have one. Every sporting event should have one. It’s common sense now,” Hassey says. “Learn from our experience.”

We couldn’t agree more. Cienega, for example, plans to buy two more AEDs – one in May and a second in July.

One of the devices will be kept in the stadium area, for the safety of teams and spectators alike, while the other will be in a centralized site at the administration building, so anyone at the school can access it quickly.

Flowing Wells High doesn’t have an AED but has requested several for the next school year.

At Sahuaro High in Tucson Unified School District, an AED was bought through the Sahuaro Cougar Foundation and personal donations.

That’s a great example for leaders at schools with especially tight budgets.

Parents and other concerned community members undoubtedly would donate to ensure that life-saving AEDs are on their neighborhood campus.

“It’s a no-brainer,” Hassey told Citizen sportswriter Geoff Grammer. “You do more fundraisers or find other areas to work around. But cutting back on stuff like this, things that are about safety, you can’t cut corners on that.”

Cienega bought its AED, a Cardiac Science Power Heart G3, at the urging of the 28-year-old Schneider.

“These are things you hope you never have to use,” she says, “but why risk not having one ready if something does happen?”

High schools throughout Pima County have high participation in competitive sports, and it is often during physical exertion that previously undiagnosed conditions surface unexpectedly.

That’s what happened with Emilio. He had just completed his daily workout in an advanced weights class when physical education teacher Jay Johnson saw the boy faint, hit his chin on a barbell on his way down and collapse unconscious on the floor.

Johnson started administering CPR and sent a student to fetch Schneider.

This story obviously had the happiest of all possible endings. But without the AED, that very well may not have been the case.

As the end of this school year draws nigh, we urge administrators to get to work now on deciding how they will acquire AEDs for any of their high schools that don’t have them.

Over the course of the next four months, they must raise the money to ensure that every high school campus has at least one AED on hand. Let’s learn from Emilio’s example and keep the kids safe.

Sure money for schools is tight these days, but a kid’s life saved is a bargain at any price.

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