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Published: 5/27/2003

3 schools get paddles - ones that save lives

BY KIM BATES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

TONTOGANY, Ohio - Athletic department officials at Otsego High School haven't had to respond yet to a student athlete who collapsed during practice or competition.

But if anything like that should ever occur, district leaders feel they'll be better prepared now because they have an automatic electronic defibrillator on hand at the school.

The Otsego Local school district was one of three schools in Wood County that recently received a free defibrillator from several area groups through the Fraternal Order of Eagles, Aerie 2180. The other recipients were Bowling Green and Eastwood Local in Pemberville.

Defibrillators are devices that administer an electric shock that can help restart a heart that is not beating properly.

The presence of a defibrillator at an area school is still somewhat rare, officials said. No state regulation requires schools to buy defibrillators and train personnel to use them.

“I think there probably are not many out there right now at schools, but as word gets out, and you see things in the fall where an athlete collapses, and as coaches see how easy they are to use ... I really think it's going to catch on,” said Scott Bernthisel, athletic director at Otsego High School.

Mr. Bernthisel said his school's athletic trainer already had begun researching ways the school could get a defibrillator FOE President Donald Cromley contacted Mr. Bernthisel, offering a donation.

Mr. Bernthisel said the district hopes to acquire a second one through a grant, with plans to keep one at the school and the second at athletic events. He said the school's athletic trainer and one coach are trained to use it, and a training session in August will be held for additional coaches.

In 1999, the American Red Cross initiated a campaign to increase the number of portable defibrillators in communities across the country.

The FOE teamed up with Wood County Hospital, St. Charles Mercy Hospital, and LifeStar Ambulance to help buy the defibrillators. Each cost about $2,600.

Mr. Cromley said they've had positive feedback from the donations and student council members at Eastwood High School already are trying to raise their own money to purchase two more.

That's similar to what students are doing at the North Adams-Jerome school district in Hillsdale County, Michigan. There, youths have started a fund-raiser in hopes of becoming the first school in their area with the machines.

Jerry Diehl, assistant director of the National Federation of State High School Associations, said the group's sports medicine advisory committee does not have a recommendation in place for schools about use of defibrillators.

He said problems can arise over which sports team has access to the defibrillator when several teams exist and often play at different sites. Oftentimes, he said an emergency response team might be able to reach the athlete quicker.

“The benefits are well-known,” Mr. Diehl said of defibrillators. “The critical thing is the timing: How long does it take you to get there?”



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