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Parent wants defibrillators at all schools

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POSTED October 24, 2013 12:22 a.m.

Mark McDonald, the father of a 4-year-old who is attending Manteca Unified’s Kids Academy for pre-kindergarten students, would like to see automated external defibrillators, or AEDs, available in district classrooms.

School district officials are looking into it after McDonald made the formal request at a recent Board of Education meeting.

The reason behind McDonald’s request is his son Dylan. Like his father, young Dylan suffers from a congenital heart condition.

“Our heart is susceptible to stopping,” said the father of five boys who is self-employed.

He said he inherited the gene from his mother; however, “I went through my whole life without symptoms at all.” A pediatric cardiologist made the diagnosis for Dylan right after he was born via Caesarean section. A genetic testing requested by McDonald and his wife Deborah also revealed that their son “has the same mutated gene as my mom.”

They also had their two younger kids tested “within the next two weeks” after Dylan’s diagnosis which, to the young parents’ relief, came out negative. Dylan is the middle child. The youngest is 7 months old, and the oldest is 12. The other four children also get their EKG checks by a cardiologist regularly. So far, they don’t show any signs of the disease.

The heart condition that McDonald, his son and his mother has is called LQTS, or Long QT syndrome. Mayo Clinic’s web site describes it as “a heart rhythm disorder that can potentially cause fast, chaotic heartbeats (which) may trigger a sudden fainting spell or seizure. In some cases, your heart may beat erratically for so long that it can cause sudden death.”

It is for this reason the McDonalds went ahead and purchased a $1,700 AED out of their own pocket and not wait for the school district to acquire one. Their son never goes to school without it.



Nurse on site at Kid’s Academy

“Right now, he has a nurse on site at Kids Academy. They (the district) hired her specifically” to have an AED-certificate personnel to take care of his son’s condition in the event of an emergency, McDonald said.

“Every year, they’re going to have to supply a nurse, which is crazy to me because he shouldn’t have a nurse, just an AED on site in school with all the teachers trained” to handle the portable defibrillator, he said.

McDonald believes there should be at least one of this life-saving device in every school. “They need to be treated like fire extinguishers. That’s what AEDs are meant to be, in a cabinet where they are readily available.”

They purchased their small portable AED online, but McDonald thinks that the district may be able to purchase them at discounted prices.

He brings the AED along when he drops his son to school then gives it to the school nurse who “basically carries it whenever they are in the playground.” And that’s really unnecessary if the school has an AED readily available. The value of having one right there during an emergency is that they don’t have to wait three minutes for emergency responders, “because in three minutes he’s going to be brain dead,” explained McDonald.

The logistics will become even more complicated when his son reaches sixth grade when he will have multiple teachers. “Then it becomes more of an issue,” he said.

While he is using his son as the reason behind his request for the district to have AEDs in the schools, “there has to be more than one student who hasn’t been diagnosed yet.”

He added, “And how about the older teachers who have heart attacks at school or whatever. An AED could save a teacher from having a heart attack; it could kick the heart back in working order.”

If used for older people, the AED would need larger shock pads as opposed to the reduced shock pads for children.



District exploring ramifications


Roger Goatcher, senior director of education and special services for Manteca Unified, said he and other key personnel are “talking about the different facets of AEDs” in the schools. These would include liability issues, training, maintenance and upkeep of the devices, who would be doing the upkeep such as checking the batteries, “because all these would be liabilities for the district,” said Goatcher who is very familiar with AEDs from his 11-year experience as a firefighter reservist with the French Camp-McKinley Fire District.

The cost for the AEDs would be another matter that they need to consider, as well as reaching out to “other agencies around us – fire, ambulance – and get some information” about response times to emergencies, for example, he said.

“Would we even be able to use AED or would an ambulance beat us to it? There may not be the opportunity to use AED because the ambulance is there,” Goatcher said, citing a possible scenario.

“Those are going to be the things that the superintendent and the school board will look at,” he said.

At this point, however, Goatcher and Deputy Superintendent Clark Burke as well as Health Services Director Caroline Thibodeau are still in the process of gathering all the pertinent information that they will then present to the superintendent and the board.

“Safety is always number one priority for us, and that’s part of the discussions. One life is always too much. We don’t want to wait for those (emergency) situations,” Goatcher said.

McDonald said he would like to see the school district requiring AEDs at every classroom because this has been mandatory since the law was enacted in 2005. However, Goatcher said that he was not aware of such a mandate from the State of California for schools in the state.

A resolution adopted by the California State PTA during a convention of delegates in April 2011 on Automated External Defibrillator (AED) Awareness in Schools reads in part: “California Assembly Concurrent Resolution No. 57 – relative to automated external defibrillator programs, urges all California K-12 public schools to implement an automated external defibrillator program….”

It also states that “each year, there are an estimated 295,000 out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrests in the United States affecting every age, fitness level, gender and race, killing more than breast cancer, lung cancer, and AIDS combined.”

Additionally, the resolution states further that “survival rates are reduced by approximately 10 percent for each minute that passes after the onset of sudden cardiac arrest.”

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