Kickstart the heart
New emergency equipment aims to save lives in Basehor-Linwood School District
According to the American Heart Association, four to five minutes can mean the difference between life and death when dealing with someone experiencing Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA).
And Paula VanBrunt, a nurse at Basehor Elementary School, knows first hand how critical those minutes can be.
Three years ago, VanBrunt's mother died when she went into ventricle defibrillation.
The necessary equipment to revive her was not available and emergency crews couldn't respond to the scene quickly enough to save her.
Sudden heart problems aren't unheard of: 250,000 people a year experience SCA and 95 percent of the cases result in fatalities.
But what makes this case unusual is where VanBrunt's mother was at the time of her heart complication -- a doctor's office.
"Even in a doctor's office they could not save her because they did not have the paddles," VanBrunt said. "There's a chance she'd still be here today if they had them."
VanBrunt is just one of thousands that can attest to how critical those precious minutes are when SCA sets in.
Those few moments, where life and death hang in the balance, are even more critical when dealing with children or adolescents, school health officials said.
According to the AHA, approximately 7,000 students a year experience cardiac arrest, sometimes at school where the needed equipment isn't on hand.
But in the Basehor-Linwood School District, a grant and recent purchases by school officials should prevent cases similar to what happened to VanBrunt's mother.
Price Chopper and KCTV-5, in association with the Mid-America Heart Institute, recently donated an Automatic External Defibrillator to the school district.
The donation is part of a program aimed at placing defibrillators in populated areas where emergency crews might have trouble responding to quickly, said Cathy Barger, school district health coordinator.
In 1998, laws were passed requiring federal buildings and passenger airlines to have on-site AEDs.
It's the goal of the Mid-America Heart Institute to have AEDs available for public purchase at stores within the next 5 to 10 years.
The school district recently purchased three more defibrillators, meaning every school in the district has one on-site.
The machine is used as a life saving measure in the event of SCA. The defibrillator re-establishes normal heart rhythms by delivering an electric shock to the person with SCA.
"When we got the first one, it simply became an obvious matter: if this is good for one school, how could we say it's not necessary at the others," school district Superintendent Cal Cormack said.
Last week, 25 school district employees received training on the machines and more training sessions are being planned for the future.
The machines are also advantageous to have at school functions and sporting events, school officials said. During a recent basketball game at Rockhurst High School, an on-site defibrillator helped saved the life of a referee, who was overcome with sudden heart problems.
"I'm comfortable that this is important and helpful to the community and to the students," Cormack said.
And for VanBrunt, who knows better than anyone how beneficial the machines can be, the defibrillators ensure an occurrence like the one that befell her mother never happens in the school district.
"They're well worth it," she said. "Just three years later and we have the capability to save someone. We're real lucky."