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Defibrillators: Student Deaths Start Push for Device

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About the size of a lunchbox, an automated external defibrillator can resuscitate victims of sudden cardiac arrest with an electrical charge that restores normal heartbeat.

The mother of Shai Owens, the Cedar Grove junior who died after a cross country race last August, wonders what might have been if an AED had been present when her daughter was stricken.

"If there had been someone there with a defibrillator, you never know what could have happened with Shai," Nicolette Owens said. "The bottom line is I want our children to have a chance, and one way to do that is to have medical personnel right there at every event. To lose a child like that is such a terrible thing. I know."

Prompted by Owens' death, DeKalb County and the city of Atlanta are pursuing funds to buy defibrillators for every high school and middle school. The $1,500- to $3,000 machines are often effective if used within five minutes of the attack.

Chattahoochee Principal Robert E. Burke recommended to the Fulton County School Board that all of its high schools have them, and they will this year. Chattahoochee had just begun training its staff to use its defibrillator at the time of Ryan Boslet's death in February but did not know how to use the device when the football player collapsed during an offseason workout.

Said Sandy Boslet, Ryan's mother: "Who's to say whether it would have started his heart, but there's always that chance. . . . I wish [Ryan] had the chance to try it."

Use of the devices varies widely in Georgia.

Coweta County recently bought 13 AEDs and will pay for staff training. In Columbus and LaGrange, public programs have provided AEDs to more than 40 schools in Muscogee and Troup counties. Many local private schools, such as Marist and Woodward Academy, already possess them.

But only two Cobb County high schools have AEDs, and there are none in Gwinnett County schools. Norcross High has the funds but awaits final school board approval.

Copyright 2003 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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