By Ed Harris
About a month ago, local resident Kevin Salsbury was going for a run at the 103rd Airlift Wing Connecticut Air National Guard center in East Granby when he became dizzy and collapsed, suffering from a cardiac issue. If it wasn’t for a nearby doctor and an automated external defibrillator (AED), there is no telling what the outcome would have been.
“Thankfully that AED was there,” Salsbury said at a recent Southington Rotary Club meeting.
Defibrillators are a lightweight and portable device that delivers an electric shock to the heart. A defibrillator can help increase the odds of surviving cardiac arrest.
Salsbury, who recovered following heart surgery, attended the meeting to listen to professional basketball star Ryan Gomes discuss his Hoops for Heart Health organization, a charitable non-profit corporation that works to bring defibrillators to schools and universities across the country.
The Southington school system has partnered with Hoops for Heart Health to place defibrillators in all of the town’s public and parochial schools. There are currently eight schools in town that do not have them.
Gomes, who is originally from Waterbury, began Hoops for Heart Health about eight years ago, after he witnessed a teammate suffer from sudden cardiac arrest during a run, just prior to practice.
“It doesn’t matter what shape you’re in,” Gomes said. “It could happen at the drop of a dime.”
At the meeting, Plainville-Southington Regional Health District Director Shane Lockwood noted that defibrillators were recently used successfully in the area, including a few months ago at the Southington YMCA.
“These machines are a lifesaver,” Lockwood said. “We need to get them in the schools.”
The school district is requesting eight defibrillators, for ALTA, Flanders, Hatton, Kelley, Strong, Thalberg, St. Dominic and St. Thomas. Each defibrillator costs $1,500.
Some of the schools in town have defibrillators, thanks to various grants. The high school has an AED thanks to grant funding secured by the Southington Fire Dept., three of the elementary schools have one due to renovation projects and the Tina Charles’s Hopey’s Heart Foundation and both middle schools have an AED thanks to the Tina Charles’s Hopey’s Heart Foundation.
“The importance in getting these in schools is the critical response time,” said Marie Bordonaro, district school nurse supervisor for the school system.
Bordonaro said the AEDs are easy to use, with provided voice commands. The AED will also only deliver the electric shock if a scan determines it is needed.
Board of Education Chairman Brian Goralski said the pursuit of grants to fund the AED purchases was something that began under former school supt. Dr. Joseph Erardi and continues under interim supt. Karen Smith.
Goralski said the school board was recently brought up to speed on the requirement to have the defibrillators in the schools and that the board would explore budgeting for the purchases, should the grants fall through.
“We’re doing our best to get them in every building,” Goralski said.
Goralski said he believed the AEDs would be in all the buildings by the start of the next school year.
Anyone interested in donating or in finding out more information about Gomes’s organization can go to Hoopsforhearthhealth.org. The group is holding a fundraising dinner and golf tournament in town next month.