Giving schools a jolt - Private contributions purchase defibrillators for school district

By Mary L. Grady

Thanks to community and private contributions, the Mercer Island School District is on its way to having automatic external defibrillators (AED) at each district school according to school nurse, Joy Dunne.

Greg Wong, a Mercer Island High School parent, the Mercer Island Rotary Club, and the PTSAs of Islander Middle School and Lakeridge Elementary, contributed funds for the purchase of the defibrillators for the schools. Three defibrillators are now located in the high school, one at the middle school and one at Lakeridge Elementary. Wong contributed the money for two of the defibrillators at the high school, Rotary contributed the third, and the PTSAs contributed the other two. The district is now hoping for contributions for AEDs for the remaining two elementary schools, and for Crest Alternative High School.

Sudden cardiac arrest claims the lives of at least 250,000 people each year. The only known treatment for sudden cardiac arrest is the use of an AED, which uses a powerful electric shock to stop an abnormal heart rhythm and allow the heart to return to a more normal beating pattern. Survival rates for sudden cardiac arrest are less than 2 percent when defibrillation is delayed 10 minutes or more

Although it is rare that a student in elementary, middle or high school suffers a heart attack, it has happened at several schools in Western Washington, including Issaquah according to Dunne. Frequently, the first and only sign of a cardiac problem in a young person comes when he or she collapses in cardiac arrest while playing a sport.

Unlike models of defibrillators intended for use by health care professionals, AEDs do not require extensive medical knowledge to understand or operate. The expertise needed to analyze the heart's electrical function is programmed into the device and enables ordinary people to provide treatment to victims of sudden cardiac arrest. Training for use also includes cardiopulmonary resuscitation skills as well as the use of the AED, and is offered by the school nurses to groups throughout the district.

AEDs cost about $2,500 each. However, federal and state public education money is to be used for education, not emergency life saving equipment. The Mercer Island Schools Foundation will accept donations earmarked for AEDs. If you would like to help call Dunne at 236-3377, or make a donation designated for an AED to the Mercer Island Schools Foundation at any time.

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