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Turlock Unified to install AEDs at all school sites
Director of Student Services Gil Ogden displays one of Turlock Unified School Districts new automatic external defibrillators, which will be installed at each school site for the 2015-16 school year. - photo by ALYSSON AREDAS / The Journal

Students at Turlock Unified School District will be a little safer come fall now that all school sites will have automatic external defibrillators installed in the event of life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias.

 According to Director of Student Services Gil Ogden, the district’s Coordinated Health Services Team came to the decision to implement AEDs at every campus in September in order to provide the best health practices for students.

“We are very excited to be placing AEDs at each school site in TUSD for the 2015-16 school year,” said Ogden. “This has been one of our goals for a while.

“As you know, the AEDs increase the survival rate by 80 percent if a cardiac event occurs,” added Ogden.

Throughout the summer, district officials will install self-alarmed boxes with the AEDs in nurse/health teach offices at each school. Ogden reported that high schools will have more than one AED available on site, due to their size.

“These will not supplant emergency services,” said Ogden. “However, they will help us provide first response care before the provider gets there.”

A number of administrators, principals, assistant principals, teachers, office staff and campus supervisors have already been trained on how to utilize the AEDs in the event of an emergency.

 According to Ogden, the goal of the district is to train as many people at each site as possible.

“It is our job to provide the best services for the student while they are here,” said Ogden. “Their parents give us responsibility to take care of their kids and that’s exactly what we want to do.”

Despite the fact that TUSD’s action to incorporate AEDs at each campus comes after Modesto high school student Andy Vazquez died during gym class in May, Ogden reported that the district’s decision has long preceded the fatal incident.

“We already had this in place before that happened, but that incident just makes us that more eager to get this going,” said Ogden.

Vazquez was pronounced dead shortly after he collapsed in the Gregori High School gym after a two-mile run.  According to some health officials, the 16 year old’s life could have been saved if a defibrillator was available. 

Although TUSD is only now beginning to provide automatic external defibrillators at all school sites, Hughson Union School District has had automatic external defibrillators available at schools for over a decade after Ryan Lonergan’s heart stopped during an eighth grade basketball practice.

Lonergan’s mother Kathy Hobby was told by doctors at the time that her son would most likely have died if it weren’t for the response of Tom Crowder of Hughson Ambulance, who utilized an automatic external defibrillator to “shock” Lonergan’s heart and ultimately revived him.

“My son is alive because of that automatic external defibrillator,” said Hobby.

Lonergan was eventually diagnosed with a congenital anomalous coronary artery.  Two weeks after he collapsed at basketball practice, Lonergan had open heart surgery at UC Davis. Doctors had hoped the surgery would fully repair the underdeveloped artery, but because he was technically dead for a few minutes, there were long-term effects.

Immediately after the incident, Hobby and her family became advocates for automatic external defibrillators in schools and other public places.

“By having automatic external defibrillators in schools, you can prevent something really serious from happening,” said Hobby. “So if you have one, you’re ahead of the game. Plus, they are so easy to use that anyone can figure it out.”

Since his heart attack, Lonergan has been a camper, mentor and counselor at Camp Taylor — a local camp for children with heart disease and their families — and is now a special education teacher at Johansen High School in Modesto.

Upon learning that Turlock Unified School District will have automatic external defibrillators at all school sites beginning with the 2015-16 academic year, Hobby responded with nothing but approval.

“I am excited that they are going to have them on campus not only for the students, but for anyone else that visits the campus, including referees, grandparents and parents,” said Hobby. “They have them everywhere, so it makes sense to also have them in schools to decrease the chances of having a life-threatening incident.”