Another viewpoint: New state law raises awareness of youth cardiac arrest


Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

The Buffalo Bills athletic trainers who rushed onto the field after Damar Hamlin collapsed during a Monday night football game in January helped save his life.

At the National Athletic Trainers’ Association convention in Indianapolis recently, they were trying to save others from premature death due to sudden cardiac arrest.

Nate Breske and Denny Kellington told those in attendance that writing a plan of action for situations involving sudden cardiac arrest and rehearsing the provision of aid in such circumstances helped prepare them for Hamlin’s heart emergency. They urged K-12 schools and youth leagues to do the same.

“It was the first time we had seen it on a live human, but we practiced it,” Breske told convention attendees June 22. “… Everyone knew their role and what needed to happen in that moment.”

Beginning July 1, Indiana schools “may ensure” having an automated external defibrillator at every athletic, marching band, drama or musical event under Senate Bill 369, which Gov. Eric Holcomb signed in May.

The bill’s author, Sen. Linda Rogers, R-Granger, intended the new law to require AEDs at school practices and events. But the most important part of the legislation, she said, is creating awareness of sudden cardiac arrest — one of the leading killers of young men between 15 and 25 years of age.

Sudden cardiac arrest is a rare but tragic event that claims the lives of about 2,000 children every year in the U.S., according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. It’s not a heart attack but an abnormality in the heart’s electrical system that abruptly stops the heartbeat.

The majority of activity-related cardiac arrests are due to congenital heart defects. But sudden cardiac arrest can also occur after a person experiences an illness that has caused inflammation to the heart or — as in Hamlin’s case — a direct blow to the chest.

But when an onsite defibrillator is used in a timely manner, survival rates rise to near 50%, according to the Indiana Department of Education’s Sudden Cardiac Arrest Advisory Board.

Rogers’ bill only suggests that schools have AEDs at all practices, games and musical performances. It, however, requires that all schools establish a goal of responding to sudden cardiac arrest within 3 minutes and perform periodic sudden cardiac arrest drills.

AEDs are expensive, costing between $1,100 and $2,500, according to Under Rogers’ bill, schools may apply for a grant from the Indiana Secured School Fund to purchase an AED. The Department of Education will conduct a statewide survey to determine how many AEDs were owned by schools before the new law takes effect July 1 as well as policies regarding AEDs.

We might never be able to screen for and prevent every heart-related death in young people, but there is one piece of equipment that improves the chances of saving lives: The automated external defibrillator. In order to better protect the lives of students, it should be a state mandate that one be readily available at all school-related athletic and musical events and practices.

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