Through several grants and generous donations, Van Wert City Schools have a total of 33 automated external defibrillators (AEDs) on-site throughout its four campuses.
This comes more than a year after a terrifying experience for Van Wert High School Principal Bob Priest. Priest was traveling out of state when his teenage daughter experienced a sudden cardiac episode in the car. Sudden cardiac episodes can occur suddenly with no warning, and for a myriad of reasons.
After Priest’s experience, it became obvious that VWCS was in need of additional AEDs. That’s when the school district decided to partner with Project Adam at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
Project Adam began in 1999 after the death of Adam Lemel, a 17-year-old high school student from Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin, who collapsed and died while playing basketball after suffering a sudden cardiac arrest. The mission of Project Adam is to save lives by empowering schools and communities to be prepared for a sudden cardiac arrest.
For each minute the heart fibrillates, the chance of survival decreases by 10%. The goal is to have an AED available and provide defibrillation (electrical shock) within five minutes of onset of cardiac arrest.
"During one of my daughter’s follow-up sessions with Dr. Kertesz, she learned I was a high school principal and challenged me on what we are doing to save the lives of our students in cardiac situations,” said Priest. “She asked me when the last time a student had died in a school fire, of which I did not know. She informed me that it was in Chicago in 1959. Yet, how many fire drills do we conduct? She then provided numerous statistics about students dying from cardiac arrest and how an AED could have saved many of those lives. I brought this challenge back to our district, and I am so thankful that we have so many great people who have collaborated and worked tirelessly to find a way to provide these AEDs to our district."
VWCS started with 11 AEDs throughout the district. On behalf of Van Wert County and with the support of the Van Wert County General Health District, the Van Wert Area Economic Development Corporation was able to secure a $50,000 Target of Opportunity – CARES grant from the Ohio Department of Development to be used to purchase an additional 17 AED units and sanitizing equipment. Van Wert Health generously donated four more AEDs, and a grant provided by Mercy Health – St. Rita’s Medical Center purchased one additional AED.
Ellen Rager, Director of Patient and Community Relations at Van Wert Health said, “We saw this as an opportunity to serve the students and staff by providing life-saving technology and the opportunity to play a critical role in the chain of survival during an unexpected cardiac event. The ability to not only support the students in the schools, but also any community members who may be on the school campus, is a privilege.”
25 AEDs are mounted on the walls and easily accessible throughout the school buildings. This leaves eight portable AEDs that can be taken to extra-curricular activities off-site.
VWCS is currently developing policy and protocol for a Cardiac Response Team in each building. Members of this team will be AED and CPR certified. Additional training will eventually be provided for all full-time staff members to have a working knowledge of how to use an AED and perform CPR in case of an emergency.
VWCS is also currently working with Project Adam to certify each building as a heart-safe school through additional training and consultation.
To date, there have been zero incidents on any VWCS campus that have required the use of an AED.