By Brian Bullock/Staff Writer
Anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 school-aged children die annually from sudden cardiac arrest and Lucia Mar’s school district is taking steps to prevent local addition to those figures.
The district is the first on the Central Coast to supply all of its facilities with automated external defibrillators (AEDs) and has worked with Safety 1st Seminars to provide staff both AED and CPR training.
The district placed AEDs at all 24 of its facilities and provided training for 175 staff members.
“We have always maintained first aid and CPR training for key medical responders in the district, mostly
administrators and secretaries, because we don’t have nurses at all sites,” explained Linda Hogoboom, nurse for the district.
Prodded by interest from both the public and the school board, the AEDs and expanded CPR training was approved.
David Bushey is one of those local residents who provided a boost to cardiac arrest awareness. Bushey was riding his bike down to the Pismo Pier early last year when he had a major heart attack.
Pismo Beach police officers Bill Garrett and Julee VanDusen were able to resuscitate Bushey thanks to an AED they had in their patrol car. Pismo police have carried the portable units since 2005.
Bushey held a benefit golf tournament last year and has donated the proceeds to purchase AED and life-saving kits. He was instrumental in helping the district place an AED at the Clark Center for the Performing Arts.
Dr. Larry Foreman, an emergency room physician at Arroyo Grande Community Hospital, played a key role in getting the program running in the school district. Hogoboom said it has been about a two-year process.
“School seems to be the most obvious location because schools are used for more than just teaching now. They’re used for bingo and dances, etcetera,” said Christine van Solinge, owner of Safety 1st Seminars and co-founder of Central Coast AED Awareness Committee.
The Santa Maria-based company coordinated the training for both the AEDs and CPR. Schools Insurance Program for Employees (SIPE) provided a grant for the training.
“One of the requirements to have (the AEDs) there is you have to have a minimum number of people trained to use them,” Hogoboom said of the AEDs. “The minimum number is two per site. Obviously, we trained a lot more than that.”
Hogoboom said the district decided to train more staff because not every school has a nurse on site due to budget cutbacks. She said each of the district’s elementary schools have four staff members trained on the defibrillators, while middle schools and high schools have seven trained staff members.
According to the American Heart Association, more Americans die from sudden cardiac arrest each year than from breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer and automobile accidents combined. Many public agencies, now including Lucia Mar’s school district, have taken steps to curb those alarming numbers.
“It’s unfortunate, but sometimes it takes a disaster before we prepare for something,” van Solinge said.