Schools installing AEDs as another way to help children suffering heart problems

Many schools training staff to use automated external defibrillators in case a child goes into cardiac arrest

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Many schools are placing automated external defibrillators and providing training to staff because children and teenagers can suffer from serious heart issues.

Schools want to better prepare staff to handle a cardiac arrest if it should happen at school.

In Georgia, the Children's Healthcare of Atlanta created Project Safe to train school staff how to use automated external defibrillators or AEDs.

Alison Ellison, a registered nurse and school nurse consultant said she can think of about 15 students in Georgia that have died from probable cardiac arrest including a nine-year-old boy who died after jumping rope.

"The teacher had no training at all. Had no idea that a healthy looking nine-year-old boy would have, could have a sudden cardiac arrest," said Ellison.

Holy Innocents school in Sandy Springs, GA has nine AEDs and the staff is trained to use them and to perform CPR.

Ellison said the program has helped save about a dozen students in Georgia over the past five years including Scott Dolezal, who went into cardiac arrest during a cross-country run.

"The plan and the program is really as important as the device because it doesn't jump off the wall and save lives," said Ellison.

Parents have also successfully pushed to have more questions added to the prescreening application for students who play sports.

Ellison said heart conditions can be easy to miss and believes the best line of defense is to be a good team.

"Parents should know to always ask their school and where their kids play and practice, is there an AED, is there someone who knows how to use it," said Ellison.

Warning signs of a heart problem include if a child faints or has a seizure during exercise or after a loud sound, has unusual chest pain, shortness of breath or is related to anyone who had a sudden death before the age of 50.

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