Saving lives on campus

August 6, 2008 6:49:53 PM PDT
Until recently, there was little educators could do to save a child who collapsed and died at school. The deaths were often the result of hidden heart problems. But two years ago, HISD installed heart defibrillators in every school. This week, that policy paid off. It saved a life.

"It's frightening," said Lamar Coach Mac McDonald. "It's upsetting. You realize how close things were to tragedy."

But there was no tragedy on the football field at Lamar High School Monday, because of an automatic external defibrillator. There are now eight of them at Lamar. One restarted the heart of a 15-year-old sophomore who had just began football practice.

"He sank to his knees, tried to remove his helmet and suffered a seizure," said McDonald.

Two coaches and trainer, who had just had their annual training with the AED, couldn't find a pulse.

"I got a reading from the AED that confirmed for us there was no heartbeat and told us to clear to where it could deliver a shock," said McDonald.

Afterward, they performed CPR until an ambulance arrived.

And it's important to know you don't need any medical training to use an AED. You can save a life because the machine can walk you through it.

"Apply pad to bare skin exactly as shown in the picture," the AED told us.

"The doctors still have not determined what caused either the seizure of the cardiac arrest," said McDonald.

But the football player called the principal to say he is feeling much better.

"Old coaches, we think back to times when this wouldn't have come out well. We'd have lost this child 20 years ago when we didn't have AEDs," said Coach McDonald.

Every HISD school now has one or more debrillators. Last year, they were used to save two other high school students. The district says survived.

Sports teams are encouraged to take a mobile AED with them to practices and to games, so one is always nearby.

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