Safety name of game with new Turners Falls defibrillator

Recorder Staff
Wednesday, January 31, 2018

It’s been a good week for the Turners Falls High School athletic department.

The school was presented with a donation from the KEVS Foundation, a 501(c)(3) Organization in memory of Kevin J. Major, a 19-year old Westfield man who passed away tragically in 2011 from sudden cardiac arrest. The school received an automated external defibrillator (AED), its fourth such device now available.

While Turners has had three AEDs at its facility for several years, the acquisition of a fourth this week was key for several reasons. The current three devices are located in the main lobby, outside the gymnasium and in the pool area, but the need for one readily available for outdoor athletic events set the wheels in motion.

The current school year marked a change in legislation from the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA). According to the MIAA Handbook, “The school designated as the home team, or the host site identified with a participating school, is recommended to have an AED on-site (and accessible) or with their medical person for all athletic events.”

That bylaw will change for the 2018-19 school year. Starting July 1, schools must have an AED on-site and accessible. Although Turners Falls did have three AEDs on its premises, getting the fourth to cover the outdoor events in the fall and spring seasons was important, according to athletic director Adam Graves.

“Anything we can do to make our kids safer is what we want to do,” began Graves, who said the fourth AED will be located in the athletic garage for all outdoor sporting events. “The difference between having an AED outside for sporting events and PE classes … it’s about a minute and a half or less to have one available, opposed to four or five minutes if someone had to run inside and grab one to bring it back out. When you’re talking about minutes to save lives, that makes such a huge difference in these cases.”

According to the American Heart Association, immediate CPR and early defibrillation AED can more than double a victim’s chance of survival. For every minute that passes without CPR and defibrillation, the chances of survival can decrease by 7 to 10-percent.

President of the Turners Falls All-Sport Booster Club Amy Johnson, a registered nurse, agreed that time is of the essence. Johnson joined forces with daughter Eliza, a sophomore who plays on the girls’ basketball and softball teams, to reach out to the KEVS Foundation. Tuesday’s school-wide assembly not only introduced the new AED to the student body, but also featured a ‘Hands Only’ CPR demonstration and presentation.

“It’s so important to have these AEDs accessible to all sporting fields because seconds truly matter,” explained Amy Johnson. “Hopefully you never have to use them. But if something terrible happens, it’s there.”

The MIAA will now require all coaches to have AED training in conjunction with mandated CPR training.

AEDs have proven to be life-savers in high school athletics. Just last year in New Hampshire, a JV boys’ basketball game at Epping High School (N.H.) was halted when Rhys Daigle, a 14-year-old freshman from visiting Nute High School, wobbled off the floor and eventually fainted on the bench. Robin Hunt, Epping’s personal athletic trainer through Access Sports Medicine, quickly retrieved the school’s AED and placed it on the boy’s chest. The AED shocked Daigle twice before a pulse returned. He was breathing on his own when help arrived to transport him first to Exeter Hospital, then to Boston by helicopter, according to a story from seacoastonline.com.

Fortunately for Turners Falls, the school has not had to use one of its AEDs. Graves said the newest device will likely be used on a rotating basis with the nurse, and they’ll have it at special events and games for the remainder of the winter. Once spring comes around, it’ll take up permanent residence in the athletic garage, where it can be accessed year-round. That includes the summer months, when youth and high school softball and baseball games will take place on the grounds.

“We want everyone to have access to (the AEDs), should they ever need it,” Graves said. “Now, year-round, we’re equipped for a potential emergency.”