Survival rates increase with defibrillators

Thanks to a passionate group of Lake Washington School District (LWSD) families, local Rotarians and families from the Seattle Mariners, all junior and senior high schools in the LWSD are equipped with AEDs (automated external defibrillators).

Student who suffered cardiac arrest is on the road to recovery

Thanks to a passionate group of Lake Washington School District (LWSD) families, local Rotarians and families from the Seattle Mariners, all junior and senior high schools in the LWSD are equipped with AEDs (automated external defibrillators).

One such device saved the life of Levi Pocza, a seventh grade student who suffered sudden cardiac arrest at Redmond Junior High on Nov. 6.

On Nov. 22, the Reporter traced the history of the push to get AEDs into district schools.

Today we’re answering frequently-asked-questions about AEDs and revisiting some close-to-home success stories.


Scott Bulger, part of a father-and-daughter team who was influential in raising funds for AEDs in the LWSD, explained that for elementary students, the incidence of sudden cardiac arrest is low. And the large number of elementary schools made it prohibitive to purchase the defibrillators for all of them.

“Wisdom from experts says it’s hard to justify the cost,” Bulger explained. “Once you make this the standard of care in the schools, you have to extend this to all schools in Washington state. There are some schools throughout the state that don’t even have a nurse. It’s hard to explain the threshold, but at some point, it’s too expensive.”

Depending on features and configurations, the list price for comparable AEDs is roughly $1,495 to $2,495 each, said Anne Devine, public relations manager for Redmond-based PhysioControl, a leading manufacturer of the devices. Discounting information is proprietary and depends on the number of units sold and other factors, she added.

While researching AEDs, Bulger consulted with medical professionals. He learned that kids of junior high or high school age are at risk for sudden cardiac arrests partly because athletic participation is more rigorous at that level and also because undiagnosed heart defects often manifest themselves in adolescence.


Bulger stated that Bob Stanbary, a vice-president at PhysioControl (formerly Medtronic) “provided invaluable help with event support and education,” during the process of putting AEDs into our schools. “Bob and everyone at Medtronic/PhysioControl went far beyond the norm to help.”

According to product literature from PhysioControl, “Community education can significantly improve cardiac arrest survival. Individuals need to know what and how common cardiac arrest is, and that there are frequently no warning signs. Early recognition of a sudden cardiac arrest and a call for help, as well as early CPR and defibrillation, can save many lives. However, early defibrillation, the delivery of an electric shock to restore normal heart rhythm, often is not possible because automated external defibrillators (AEDs) are not nearby. Education on technologies such as AEDs and implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) will also raise awareness of the lifesaving benefits of these therapies and may lead to better public access to defibrillation.”

Survival rates are as high as 90 percent if a victim of sudden cardiac arrest is defibrillated within one minute. The survival rate is around 70 percent if defibrillation occurs within four minutes. If delivered 10 minutes after cardiac arrest, the survival rate drops to two percent.

Shannon Hunnex, who is Scott Bulger’s daughter and who campaigned for AEDs when she attended Eastlake High School, said she’s made a habit of looking for defibrillators in settings such as airports, restaurants or office buildings. She counts how many fire extinguishers they have, versus numbers of AEDs — and wonders why the latter aren’t mandatory.

We asked Devine about possible misconceptions regarding the use of AEDs. For instance, people may worry that if used improperly, they can do more harm than good.

“There are those who worry about liability issues regarding the use of an AED,” said Devine. “However, an AED is designed to be simple to use and to provide or recommend a defibrillation shock only if a shockable rhythm is present. Another thing to keep in mind is that a person in cardiac arrest is actually dead — so harming is not the primary concern — helping is.”

She added, “There is growing support on the part of many organizations for AEDs in public places such as schools. There may actually be more liability for not having an AED onsite than for having one, provided proper training and routine maintenance is done.”

The American Heart Association recently recommended adoption of a resolution seeking placement of the devices in public buildings. And The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is encouraging employers to take advantage of AED technology, noting that 13 percent of workplace fatalities reported to OSHA in 1999 and 2000 resulted from cardiac arrest.


In 2006, Dean Cowles, an employee at PhysioControl, suffered sudden cardiac arrest at his workplace

Co-workers Oscar Rojas, Steve Copeland and Steve Firman rushed to the aid of the 57-year-old engineer and defibrillated him within minutes. He survived and changed his lifestyle to improve his heart health.

Devine said that PhysioControl employees take great pride in their products, which are made by hand. “We hear all the time about lives saved, but to know this saved one of our own had a huge emotional impact,” she commented.

And she noted that AEDs in schools benefit more people than just students. The lives of teachers, athletic coaches and members of the community have also been saved when they experienced cardiac arrests on school campuses equipped with defibrillators.

For additional information about sudden cardiac arrest, visit the American Heart Association’s Web site,


Last Wednesday, Levi Pocza successfully underwent surgery to implant a defibrillator and he went home from Children’s Hospital the next day.

Speaking on behalf of the Pocza family, Levi’s uncle, Jesse Winkler, said that Levi’s grandparents have been visiting and several groups of kids have visited him. While Levi was still in the hospital, “that really made his day,” said Winkler. “He was bored and wanted to go home. There was real encouragement, it really lifted his spirits. They brought in a huge banner that a lot of kids signed.”

It’s still going to be a while before Levi goes back to school, Winkler said.

“We’re not sure about school yet. He’s still resting, walking around, but can have no activity. He’ll watch a lot of movies, play video games, try to do a little bit of school work — they may get a tutor. But he’s doing well.”