Community Hospital donating defibrillators to area schools

Community Hospital will donate 50 automated external defibrillators to local schools, completing a goal for District 51 to have one of the devices in each of its schools.

Hospital representatives announced the donation at Tuesday evening’s District 51 School Board meeting at the Basil T. Knight Center. Fourteen of the defibrillators will go to local charter and private schools and the other 36 will be placed at District 51 schools that do not already have the devices. Central, Fruita Monument, Grand Junction and Palisade high schools each received defibrillators from donors within the last year.

Community Hospital Chief Executive Officer Chris Thomas said the hospital decided to use proceeds from this Saturday’s Community Hospital Gala to pay for AED devices because 15,000 children die each year due to sudden cardiac arrest. External defibrillators shock a person’s heart into a normal heart beat during sudden cardiac arrest, an electrical disturbance in the heart unrelated to clogged arteries.

“We are committed to having one in every school” to cut down on sudden cardiac deaths, Thomas said.

Dr. Dilaawar Mistry of Community Hospital said about $73,000 from the Gala will pay for defibrillators and some training for district employees on how to use the devices. Each defibrillator needs a new battery every four years and ongoing AED and CPR training for employees will be needed for years to come, expenses Mistry said he hopes community partners will continue to support.

“This is the first step of a hundred steps and we have to keep going,” he said.

Support for bringing Automated External Defibrillators into local schools has been going strong for more than a year. Grand Junction High School student Robert Harrison began raising funds to bring a defibrillator into every District 51 school in April 2011 and Sue Edson, who founded ARVD Heart for Hope in 2010 after her daughter had an internal defibrillator installed, has been working to bring AED devices to local middle and high schools and Colorado Mesa University, which received its sixth defibrillator last fall.

Edson helped convince Community Hospital to direct its Gala funds to AED purchases. She said at Tuesday’s board meeting she received another reminder earlier that day of the importance of AED devices when she visited Mount Garfield Middle School to deliver a cabinet for the school’s defibrillator. A former teacher she met at the school said she witnessed a young girl get off a bus at the middle school and collapse due to sudden cardiac arrest.

“She died because no one knew what to do,” the teacher told Edson.

District 51 received another donation Tuesday: a $6,000 check from Grand Junction’s Riverfront Commission. The money will be used to provide bus transportation for students to attend Get Kids Outdoor events at six sites along the riverfront.


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