A shock in time


Published: Thursday, January 11, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 10, 2007 at 10:19 p.m.

The other night while refereeing a Santa Fe High School basketball game, Ron Siders suffered cardiac arrest and collapsed. He might not have survived long enough for paramedics to arrive and restart his heart. But the presence of a portable defibrillator at the school saved his life.

"Once he was shocked, a few seconds later, you could see his chest move. Then he started taking deep, gasping breaths," Adam Boukari, a SFHS coach who knew the school had a defibrillator, later told the Sun. "The ambulance arrived and they began to regulate his breathing."

It is to their credit that school district officials have been working with the American Heart Association and local businesses to equip all schools with portable defibrillators. This effort followed the collapse of a Gainesville High School student during band practice in 2004.

Time is a luxury that heart-attack victims can ill afford: The American Hospital Association says that for every minute that passes after cardiac arrest, a patient's chances of survival decrease by 10 percent. That's why the organization has been urging schools, public safety agencies, shopping malls, airports, community centers and other places where people congregate to have portable defibrillators on hand, as well as personnel who have been trained to use them.

There was a time when defibrillators were used almost exclusively by hospitals, emergency response teams and other medical professionals. But the devices have come down in both size and price. And more and more lay people are being trained in their use.

The use of automated external defibrillators is considered so essential to lifesaving that New York and Pennsylvania have passed laws requiring them in all public schools. We commend officials here for making this one of the first districts in Florida to equip schools with AEDs. We hope local governments and other community organizations are following the district's example.

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