A growing number of schools are purchasing automated external defibrillator, or AEDs, but that does not mean they’re always readily available for student athletes or their fans.
Kanisha Ward is responsible for the safety of more than 300 athletes as an athletic trainer for Ypsilanti Community High School.
“There’s an AED right outside our gym that I usually take for the basketball games and soccer, but our track, football field, baseball diamond, they’re all maybe a half a mile up,” Ward said.
She worries about having their AED so far away.
“Even our best sprinter, it would take him at least 5 minutes,” Ward said.
It’s also a concern for Jesse Johnson, athletic trainer for Father Gabriel Richard High School in Ann Arbor.
“Cross country, when we’re out at Hudson Mills, it’s probably a five minute walk just to get to your car. They call the ambulance or the park safety people, depending on where they’re at, easily it could be a half an hour or more to get somebody there,” Johnson said.
Both trainers know that’s far too long for a student suffering a cardiac arrest.
“It’s a matter of seconds,” Ward said. “Every second that ticks off is closer to not being able to have them here on Earth with us.”
But taking the AED out of their schools is not a good solution.
“That’s always our fear that if I take one from the school and the school needs it, then they don’t have one anymore,” Johnson said.
The University of Michigan MedSport program recognized the problem and is taking steps to solve it by providing 21 AEDs for trainers at all of the schools and athletic programs they have contracts with — in Wayne, Oakland, Washtenaw, and Livingston counties. The AEDs can travel with the trainers to practices and competitions.
“For an athletic trainer to have one at their side would be the difference between life and death,” Pat Dyer, coordinator of athletic training services at U-M MedSport, said. “I think it’s always been in the back of their mind, ‘Oh, I hope I don’t get stuck on a field where a kid goes down, and I have to run back to the school to get this.’ To have one next to you to be able to place the pads on and start the program right away will be critical to saving a life.”
The trainers said it’s not just students that could be saved, but also officials, parents, grandparents and other spectators.
“It’s definitely going to reassure us to know that we will have the tools necessary,” Johnson said. “If something like this were to come up and we needed to get an AED, that we have one. We can utilize it and hopefully save a life and not have to say, ‘Well, if we only had, then we could have done better.'”