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National Issues


Heart machine bill makes its third appearance in Congress
An Akron doctor is pushing a bill that would put defibrillators in all U.S. schools
by WKSU's STATEHOUSE BUREAU CHIEF KAREN KASLER


Reporter
Karen Kasler
 
Josh Miller died in 2000 of sudden cardiac arrest after walking off his high school football field during the final game of the season. Akron cardiologist Terry Gordon says a defibrillator may have saved his life.
Courtesy of The Gordon Family
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For the third time, a bill that would provide grants to put defibrillators in all US schools is making the rounds in Congress. But an obstacle that’s stopped this bill before could halt it once again.

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More than a decade ago, 15 year old Josh Miller collapsed on the sidelines of the final football game of the season at Barberton High School. Akron cardiologist Terry Gordon has been haunted since he saw a video of what happened that night in October 2000. He’s convinced an automatic external defibrillator, or AED, could have saved Josh by shocking his heart back into beating.

Gordon started working on getting AEDs in Ohio’s public schools, and then took his campaign national, pushing for a program to create federal grants to help all public schools get the machines. A bill to do that introduced by Democratic Representative Betty Sutton of Akron passed the US House in June of 2008, but failed in the US Senate.

Sutton: “And since that time--June 2008--206 children have died of a cardiac arrest in schools across the country. And that is a direct result of the inaction of our legislators to pass this very, very important bill. It’s a travesty.”

It was introduced again in the next Congress, and failed to become law. And so for the third time, Gordon is hoping to see passage of the Josh Miller HEARTS Act. "HEARTS" stands for Helping Everyone Access Responsive Treatment in Schools. This time it has Ohio’s senior senator as its chief backer.

Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown knows the fight over this bill has never been about the need for AEDs – it’s been about the money to pay for them. 

Brown: “This is not very much money, but it’s tough budget times and the money has to come from somewhere, and that’s a struggle we’re trying to work through here. We know this saves lives, we know they’re expensive.”

Under the bill, federal dollars would pay for three quarters of each AED, which can cost up to $2000, with the school coming up with the remaining quarter. Fiscal conservatives continue to question how to pay for these grants.

But Terry Gordon says allowing kids and their families to gather on ball fields, basketball courts and gymnasiums for emotional, physically intense activities is – in his words – “like sending a police officer to a gunfight without providing bullets.” 

Gordon: “I believe in fiscal responsibility. But there are certain things that have to trascend that.”

And with the bill failing to pass in the state Senate twice before, and with it still needing to get through a Republican-run House, Brown says it’s up to lawmakers to argue for funding these machines. 

Brown: “The case continues to grow as more people are knowledgeable about it. That’s why we have a chance in a congress that is paying more attention to budget issues than maybe 10 years ago.”

Brown’s office says the average survival rate for victims of sudden cardiac arrest is less than 8%, but cities with comprehensive AED programs have seen survival rates above 40%.

Listener Comments:

Here locally, we have placed about a dozen AEDs in public schools thanks to a charitable organization.

Awareness of this issue has not been promoted enough like other public health issues.

More than 7000 school age children die each year of Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) in this country. A total of 250,000 people die each year from SCA...More than colorectal cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, auto accidents, AIDS, firearms, and house fires combined - Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation.

An estimated 50,000 lives could be saved per year with widespread distribution of AEDs - Red Cross.

Middle School age children have successfully demonstrated to be proficient in using AEDs.

Most people do not know what an AED is or even what they look like. Sadly even some healthcare professionals do not understand why the public needs AEDs in the community.


Posted by: Robert Sikes (Orlando, Florida) on February 21, 2012 3:02AM
My 14 year old daughter Olivia died from sudden cardiac arrest April 22, 2004. I have since been trying to get our local schools to implement CPR/AED programs but I have met much resistance due to SISC (Self Insured Schools of California). Their reason, liability. I am a mom who has lost a daughter to SCA and I believe it is a liability to not have AEDs in our schools and have a child collapse and die. Especially, if the AED is being donated as well as the training. I do hope that the Josh Miller Hearts Act moves forward. I am so tired of hearing about money, liability, pressure on schools...What about our kids. Aren't they worth much more?


Posted by: Corinne Ruiz (California) on February 20, 2012 8:02AM
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