High school students learn how to use a defibrillator

MANILA, AR (KAIT) - Manila High School students are learning just how every minute counts when a person is suffering from a cardiac arrest, especially for athletes.

Sudden cardiac arrest is a leading cause of death among student-athletes, according to a study by the American Heart Association.

The five-year study, from January 2004 to December 2008, researchers tracked cases of sudden death among NCAA student-athletes through an NCAA database, media reports and insurance claims.  Of the 273 deaths, 29% were due to medical causes. More than half of the deaths due to medical causes were cardiovascular-related.

Today Region 8 doctor Tommy Wagner taught a group of athletes at Manila High School what to do if a teammate or classmate stops breathing. "Athletics and sports are where if you're going to have an arrhythmia, it's most common," Dr. Wagner said.

Manila football player Rafael Maldonado was surprised to learn he is at risk. "I figured it only happened to older people since we're healthy and stuff."

Dr. Wagner showed the students how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED). AEDs are devices that provide an electric shock to the heart to restore its natural rhythm. Eight defibrillators are located in various buildings on the Manila campus.

Maldonado believes he would be able to use the AED properly if necessary. "I think I would simply because like (Dr. Wagner) said, it's better to do something than not to do anything at all."

Manila head football coach Jerry Castor knows the importance of having access to an AED and knowing how to use it properly.  "I was working at Osceola High School and one morning where the buses line up and let the students off, we noticed one bus didn't pull off. We let him sit there for a couple of minutes. We thought he may have been on the phone or something. We go up to the bus and find Mr. Elrod slumped over in his seat."

Castor said teachers performed CPR and called 911, but it was too late. "If we would've had one of these AED machines accessible to us right there, we may have been able to save his life."

The defibrillators are in locked cases. Dr. Wagner said the machines will only work on people who need it. "It really is foolproof for the layperson to hook up, and kids can't pull this out and play with it and try to shock each other because they are not going to have a shockable rhythm." In addition, the device talks the user through the steps to resuscitate victims of cardiac arrest.

Dr.  Wagner said he hopes to expand the seminar to educate more of the student body.

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