Local schools proactive in implimenting AEDs

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 2, 2012



LAPLACE – It has become more and more apparent that the thought process where heart concerns were considered to be a problem for adults, and only adults, has become outdated – and a new way of thinking is becoming commonplace in government.

With more and more instances of young athletes dying from heart issues or complications during or after competition coming to light in recent times, Louisiana lawmakers have taken note. Currently, there is a bill in legislation requesting that the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education perform a study to determine the feasibility of requiring automatic external defibrillators, or AEDs, to be placed in public high schools.

Locally, however, both St. John the Baptist and St. Charles parishes have been proactive and ahead of the potential requirement. Each parish has AEDs on the grounds of each public high school as well as its public middle schools.

In 2009, the St. John the Baptist Parish school system began installing defibrillators in every school, aided financially by a state grant secured by district athletic trainer Jeanne Leroy.

“Miss Leroy, while doing some research for her certification, learned that this grant was available,” said Elton Oubre, St. John’s director of safe and drug free schools. “Other states had seen some unfortunate things occur with athletes having heart conditions, and they were starting to use (AEDs). She started the research and made a push to secure the grant.”

Oubre said that the grant essentially allowed the school system to install the defibrillators at no cost.

The parish trains and recertifies employees to use the devices each year.

The AEDs are also briefly removed from the schools each year in order to perform the necessary upgrades to keep the devices up to date.

Oubre said that to date the AEDs have not been used in the three years they’ve been in the parish’s schools.

“Fortunately, we haven’t had an incident,” he said. “We haven’t had to use them, and that’s a good thing.”

The St. Charles Parish School Board, meanwhile, voted to put defibrillators in each of its schools in 2007.

Currently, there are three AEDs in each high school, two in each of its four middle schools and one in each of its elementary schools.

St. Charles nurse coordinator Darla Rebowe said that over 200 people in the school system are trained to administer CPR and to utilize the AEDs.

“In our school district, we have something called a safe school team, where members are prepared to respond to all emergencies on a school campus,” said Rebowe. “We want 100 percent compliance with training for CPR, first aid and utilizing the AEDs.”

To date, there has been training every year. Beginning this year, the training schedule will be changed to every other year. Rebowe said that there will be mock drills and situational training instituted in the new training structure.

The death of a Texas high school football player due to heart failure moved St. Charles Parish to action. Members of the school board attended a conference in Texas and learned of the tragedy, one that could potentially have been averted had an AED been immediately available.  

“We were one of the first districts to do this. It is a lot to put into place,” said Rebowe. “We wanted to be proactive. We never wanted to say, now that we’ve lost a child, let’s do this. We want our children to be safe, no matter what.”

When the devices are employed, Rebowe said, the AEDs will “speak” to the person in control, giving directions.

“If you forget to do a step, it keeps repeating the step,” said Rebowe. “Over and over, step for step. It’s very first words to each person are probably the most important: stay calm.”