SOUTHINGTON — The school system is working with officials from the group Hoops for Heart Health to purchase automated external defibrillators for every school. Only three schools have the devices and nine more are needed.
“I know of two lives saved recently with it,” said Plainville-Southington Health Director Shane Lockwood, chairman of the Emergency Medical Services Committee. “So absolutely having the access to this is critical. It’s a very important public health feature.”
The heath district recently bought two, Lockwood said, one for the Southington Municipal Center and one for the Plainville Town Hall.
An automated external defibrillator, also known as an AED, sends an electric shock to the heart if it doesn’t detect a beat. The two recently purchased defibrillators cost about $1,700, Lockwood said.
Hoops for Heart Health works to provide AEDs in public and recreational places where they’re needed. A goal of the organization is to spread the awareness about sudden cardiac arrest and how the use of an AED and CPR can help save lives.
In 2005, professional basketball player Ryan Gomes started the foundation to put a defibrillator in a gym where his friend and teammate died from cardiac arrest while warming up for practice. He was playing for the American Athletic Union team at the time. Since then, Gomes travels around the country to raise awareness and provide AEDs.
“Unfortunately it’s something that sometimes people don’t know ...until someone has passed,” said Wayne Simone, vice president of development for Hoops for Heart Health. “We’re trying to stay ahead of the curve.”
Marie Bordonaro, Southington school nursing supervisor, said having an AED in a school building is not only important for the safety of students and staff, but also for members of the community that use the buildings for recreational use. The health council has been working with Hoops for Heart Health on the initiative.
“It’s very important because, should there be a need for one, the sooner you can get this activated with someone the better the outcome,” she said.
There were four other incidents in the past three months in neighboring towns where an AED helped save lives. In March, a Southington resident used a defibrillator he had in his car to help a woman who collapsed during an event in Monroe.
In Wallingford, two women used one of the devices on a 39-year-old man after he collapsed during a basketball game at Rock Hill School in March. A Berlin man helped a 74-year-old woman after she suffered a heart attack while boarding a plane. He assisted a doctor in using the AED on the woman. I
n January, a 39-year-old man collapsed while exercising at the Southington-Cheshire YMCA. Staff acted quickly and used a defibrillator to revive him.
Lockwood is part of the school system’s school health council, which is made up of school staff and a medical advisor. The council has been looking into ways to obtain AEDs.
The high school and two middle schools each have an AED, Lockwood said, so the district hopes to get devices in the rest of the school buildings by Sept. 1 with the help of Hoops for Heart Health.
“We really do think the use of AEDs can save lives,” Lockwood said. “My board feels that way and the school system and school health council feels this way.
Gomes will be speaking at the Southington Rotary Club meeting today at The Orchards at Southington at 12:15 p.m. to discuss Hoops for Heart Health. To find out more about the organization, visit www.hoopsforhearthealth.org.