Group working to put defibrillators in every school

Published: Thursday, Feb. 21 2013 6:52 p.m. MST

Camille Hood, upper right, of Tender Heartbeats, and her son Alex talk with Principal Valerie Shaw of Jefferson Academy in Kaysville on Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, after presenting a sample of an automatic external defibrillator to the principal. Alex has a heart problem and will attend the school next fall.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

KAYSVILLE — Sam Hood holds his little brother's hand and walks down the halls of Jefferson Academy, showing him where he will go to kindergarten next year.

The first day of school is a major milestone for any child. The Hood family will be celebrating Alex's first day of school because he was born with a serious heart defect.

Five years ago, Camille Hood was at the then-new Fetal Heart Center at Primary Children's Medical Center when she underwent an ultrasound on her unborn baby, Alex.

The two great arteries in the boy's heart were transposed, the valve on the right side never formed and the bottom right heart chamber was too small. Fortunately, the complicated defects were diagnosed early. He had a surgery when he was 6 months old and one when he was 3.

Today, Alex is doing very well.

"He is so full of life. He has been just kind of an amazing child that has kind of defied the odds," his mother said. "He doesn't let anything slow him down. He doesn't know that he has a heart defect."

And the boy's prognosis is good, she said.

The nonprofit group Tender Heartbeats donated an automated external defibrillator to the charter school in Kaysville on Thursday, hoping to give parents a little peace of mind.

“It means so much to me," Hood said, "not only because I know that my children will be protected and have this opportunity if there is some type of an emergency, just a peace of mind knowing that there is something to assist and help until help can arrive, until they can be transported to a hospital if needs be."

Hood now helps run Tender Heartbeats. The group's goal is to place AEDs in every Utah elementary school. Each device costs $1,300, and Utah companies such as VanCon Construction are donating the funds. This month, the organization donated four AEDs to four schools. 

"The Davis School District has one in every school, but not all of the other districts are as fortunate," Hood said. "So that's our mission, as of right now, to ensure that these schools are equipted with this, because there are so many that need these lifesaving advances." 

Congenital heart disease affects approximately one in 100 children this country, according to the American Heart Association. Some of the defects may produce symptoms at birth, during childhood, or not until adulthood.

“Although we know that we have multiple students at our school who have been diagnosed with a congenital heart failure and some kind of heart disease, there are many students that we don't know who may have some kind of heart disease that have not yet been diagnosed,” Jefferson Academy Principal Valerie Shaw said, “so the importance of being prepared in different situations, in case something comes up, is very important to us.”

The AED fits into a metal box that school leaders will fasten to a wall near the office in a few weeks. Next week, a safety team will come to the charter school to train administrators, staff and teachers on how to use the device.

“You never know when the need will arise and where it may happen,” Shaw said. “It may happen on the playground, so it's very important for us to be able to respond as quickly as possible, so everyone should know how to use it.”

Contributing: Viviane Vo-Duc

E-mail: cmikita@desnews.com

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