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Schools equipped to restart hearts

Schools equipped to restart hearts
Sarah O'Donnell
The Edmonton Journal
Published: 8:51 am
 EDMONTON - Assistant principal Mitch Zarowny stops briefly outside a cabinet hanging in the hallway to watch for a flashing light on J. Percy Page High School's defibrillator.

That daily battery check has been part of his routine for weeks, ever since J. Percy Page and all of Edmonton's high schools were equipped with the portable, lunch box-sized, life-saving devices that deliver electric shocks to restart stopped hearts."

It's reassuring to know that if we did need it, we'd have it available," J. Percy Page principal Audrey Gibson said. "You never know in a school when an emergency is going to happen."

Defibrillators arrived in all Edmonton high schools this year through a grant from the Canadian Legion of Frontiersmen.

At J. Percy Page, the defibrillator is marked with a sign that shows a heart and a lightning bolt through it. It is located between the school's fitness centre and gymnasium.

Heart-Safe, a collaboration between Edmonton EMS, Alberta Health Services and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Alberta, N.W.T. and Nunavut, aims to reduce the number of deaths from sudden cardiac arrest. It co-ordinated the donation from the Frontiersmen.

Getting defibrillators in public places is one of Heart-Safe's main objectives. There are currently 267 defibrillators at 210 sites in Edmonton.

High schools are excellent locations for the defibrillators because they are busy places, said paramedic Amy Hassen, a Heart-Safe co-ordinator."

Just because of the students, staff and extracurricular activities going on after school hours, we consider those areas at higher risk," Hassen said.

No one in either the city's Protestant or Catholic school districts could recall an incident when a student's heart stopped at school. But there have been incidents in other communities where a young person has collapsed because of a heart condition.

Three years ago in Drayton Valley, a 15-year-old Calgary teen trying out for a hockey team collapsed on the ice and died.

A Calgary parent, Lorne Rosenau, told the Calgary Herald in 2007 about how he had to use a portable defibrillator on his 14-year-old son, who collapsed during a basketball practice in Cochrane.

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