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Your Healthy Family: Importance of AEDs in SWFL schools

Posted at 8:33 AM, Jan 10, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-10 08:33:22-05

SOUTHWEST FLA. — Buffalo Bills player Damar Hamlin's sudden cardiac arrest on the football field last week has shined a spotlight on the importance of having AEDs in all sports settings, including Southwest Florida schools.

An automatic external defibrillator, or AED, saved Zac Syska's life in 2017.

"I felt dizzy and weird and light headed at the end of the workout, so I went to sit down by a tree and I passed out," he said.

He was running with his track team at Cypress Lake Middle school at the time, and had a sudden cardiac arrest.

"I woke up in the ambulance after my coach resuscitated me," Syska said.

His coach used an AED to save him, and that started the push to make sure the devices were in all Lee County schools.

“In children, the out-of-hospital arrest mortality is greater than 90%. Same thing with adults. So, it's very important to recognize it and get it patient defibrillated as soon as possible," Dr. John Phillips, a Pediatric Cardiologist at Children's Hospital of Richmond at VCU, said.

He said one silver lining to come from Hamlin's cardiac arrest on the field is a focus on the importance of a quick response.

“It's been a positive coming from a really tragic event," Dr. Phillips said.

The AEDs in each Lee County School were made possible by Golisano Children’s Hospital’s partnership with Project Adam.

“What Project Adam aims to do is to prepare schools for sudden cardiac arrest through preparedness, education and practice,” Dr. Phillips said.

Project Adam is named after a Wisconsin teen who died of sudden cardiac arrest while playing basketball in 1999, and didn’t get an AED. Project Adam deemed all Lee County Schools “heart safe” in 2020.

“We've saved over 200 lives, and that accounts for children and adults, and really helping them to get practice responses, like we saw in action," Allison Thompson, a Project Administrator for Project Adam said.

All Collier County Public Schools also have AEDs. The Community Liaison for Charlotte County Public Schools said it has AEDs in all of its high schools, and is working on a project now to get them put in all Charlotte County schools.