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Louisiana lawmakers to debate mandating AEDs in schools

In the U.S., 350,000 people have sudden cardiac arrest each year. In children and teens, a quarter of the time, it's while playing sports.

BATON ROUGE, La. — Lawmakers in Baton Rouge have plans to debating a bill to make sure colleges and high schools have automated external defibrillators.
These devices can save the life of someone in cardiac arrest, but some schools and parents are not waiting for the new law.

In the U.S., 350,000 people have sudden cardiac arrest each year. In children and teens, a quarter of the time, it's while playing sports. Only 10% survive. But with a special machine used early on, survival can go up to 75%.

John Curtis Christian School, head of schools and football coach, J.T. Curtis, remembers what happened in a classroom years ago.

“We had an incident about 15 years ago where we had a teacher have a heart attack in school, and they were not available for us, and we had to do the CPR,” he said remembering when there were no AEDs in the school.

About five years ago, the school got several automated external defibrillators. They're in the halls, and gyms, and travel to every sporting event for the players, students, faculty, and other adults.

“You're talking about spectators at a game, someone in the stands. It's a life saving device that can make the difference in the lives of people,” said Curtis.

Curtis took this action even before NFL player Damar Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest and was saved by an AED. The device can shock a heart that's out of rhythm, back to normal.

It is simple. Anyone can do it by following the voice commands. They won't even fire if something else is wrong with the heart. For several years, Medical Watch has talked to families with personal stories, who have raised funds to donate AEDs to schools, like Nancy Barcia, who years ago lost her son Chad, a senior football player, at De La Salle.

“When they first called, they told us that he was in intensive care, and he wasn't doing well, and he had collapsed. And they told us we needed to come home, and when my husband hung up the phone, I looked at him and I said, ‘They're lying.’ I said, ‘He's gone,’” said Nancy Barcia in January 2012.

After Hamlin's medical emergency, the Saints and Pelicans donated AEDs to Orleans and Jefferson Parish Recreation Departments. Coach Curtis agrees with the legislation that AEDs should be mandatory in all educational settings, and is thankful one saved a former student athlete of his.

“Willie Allen played at LSU. Fine athlete, excellent shape, was on the football staff at Concordia University, Michigan, and was out playing basketball with his friends just for exercise, and dropped, just dropped,” Curtis remembered.

The bill specifically states that colleges competing in athletics need an AED in the athletic department.

And high schools should have one, if funding was available, and they could accept donations of one or funds to buy one.

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