It’s been about three years since Levi Pocza collapsed during a physical education (P.E.) class at Redmond Junior High School (RJH), but many people still remember how an automated external defibrillator (AED) helped save his life when he experienced cardiac arrest.
And now thanks to a grant from the PTSA and a matching of dollars from the school’s building fund, two new AEDs have been added to the junior high’s repertoire.
The AED that has been at RJH for the last few years is centrally located, but school resource officer (SRO) Matthew Hurley with the Redmond Police Department (RPD) said for security purposes, that area is locked up at the end of the day and not accessible after school. Because of this, he put in a grant request to the PTSA for a second device for about $1,900.
“It was probably the biggest one we’ve ever done,” said PTSA Co-President Elizabeth Hansford about the organization awarding the grant.
However Hansford, who has a ninth-grader at RJH and a sixth-grader who will attend next year, understands the importance of having AEDs onsite, especially with the school’s history of having to use one.
About 300,000 deaths a year are caused by cardiac arrest and getting to an AED quickly could literally mean life or death during an emergency.
Hurley, whose daughter is the same age as Levi and was at the school when he went into cardiac arrest, wanted a device in the school’s gym where many sports activities take place. Additionally, an unlocked gym would make for one less obstacle for anyone coming from other parts of the building.
“We also use (the building) for numerous public events,” Hurley said, referring to church gatherings, musical concerts and other community activities. “The building is used for much more than just children.”
This is Hurley’s first year as an SRO and he will be with RJH for four years. His grant request was only for enough money to pay for one new AED, but his plan was to make a request for a second one later down the line as budgets would allow. However, RJH principal Kelly Clapp decided to match the grant amount to pay for that second device, allocating money from the school’s building fund.
“I was extremely excited about that,” Hurley said. “It was phenomenal to me. I was very excited to see that happen.”
Hansford was similarly thrilled about the third AED. She said she was overwhelmed by the news.
The two new AEDs will be placed in the school’s gym as well as on the opposite end of the building on the second floor.
All three AEDs at the school were built by Redmond-based Physio-Control and Hurley said he was able to work with the company, which specializes in emergency medical products such as AEDs, and purchase the devices at a discounted rate. The package for each device included an AED, a wall-mounted box, training materials and signage for around the AED.
Cam Pollock, vice president of global marketing for Physio-Control, said placing AEDs in schools is a “fairly rapidly growing area” of business for them.
“We’ve seen schools all across the country adapting AEDs,” he said.
Pollock said the devices are there to protect different types of citizens, from the students and staff in the schools, to community members who use the buildings after hours.
For example, Physio-Control recently installed AEDs in all Seattle Public Schools buildings and within weeks, a device was used to save the life of a man who was playing a game of pick-up basketball in the South Shore K-8 School gym, Pollock said.
A person’s chance of survival after experiencing cardiac arrest decreases by about 10 percent per minute, Pollock said, which makes quick and easy access to an AED very important. But once the AED is brought to the scene, someone needs to know how to use it. This is why Physio-Control’s devices are user friendly and have an automated voice to prompt and walk people through the process.
“We test the devices with people who have never seen (an AED) before,” Pollock said.
He said he even brought a device home once and his 4-year-old daughter was able to figure out what to do based on the voice instructions — so no training is necessary to use an AED.
This being said, Hurley said they have had a quick hands-on presentation about the devices with some of the school’s staff and there will be more formal training once they return from winter break. Additionally, they will be educating students on where the AEDs are located and how to use them as well.
“There are a lot of things happening now in terms of training,” Hurley said.