217 schools in province without heart defibrillators, father says

A Conception Bay South father with a medical condition where his heart could stop beating at any second wants to see AEDs placed in every school around the province.
The Heart an Stroke Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador says there are 209 public schools and eight private schools without one of these, an AED. (Darren Bernhardt/CBC)

A Conception Bay South father with a medical condition where his heart could stop beating at any second wants to see AEDs placed in every school around the province.—​ a move supported by Newfoundland and Labrador's Heart and Stroke Foundation.

Clayton Delaney lives with a condition known as arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy, or ARVC, a hereditary condition that he has passed on to his two children.

Delaney worries that his kids' hearts will stop before his.

"If an arrhythmia happens, the child can die in literally seconds," he told CBC News.

Delaney said because of his and his children's condition, he was successful in having an AED, or automated external defibrillator, installed in his kids' school, but there are many more schools without them.

Heart could stop at any second

"You do have a window where you can restart the heart with an AED, but if you don't have that you've got an ambulance minimum five minutes away –anywhere in the Northeast Avlaon and by that time it is too late," he said.

An AED, or automated external defibrillator, uses an electric shock to enable the heart to return to a normal beating pattern, either correcting an irregular pattern — an arrhythmia– or restarting a heart that has stopped beating.

"There are over 200 schools left [in Newfoundland and Labrador] that need to have AEDs and priority needs to be placed on schools where children or staff have been diagnosed with a condition," Delaney said.

Information provided by the Heart and Stroke Foundation shows that 59 public schools in the province already have an AED installed.

Some 209 public schools in the province are without an AED, plus another 8, or none of the province's private schools have an AED installed.

Foundation needs more money

Mary Ann Butt, CEO with the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador, said while the provincial government was generous in providing funding to have AEDs installed in arenas and recreational areas, it has been less forthcoming with the cash needed to install AEDs in the school system.

"We won't stop until we get this program completed," Butt said at getting AEDs in all of the province's schools.

"I'm hoping that as we approach the new budget preparations for next year that there will be some funding allotted for this program," said Butt, adding that the schools where AEDs have already been installed had largely to do with corporate donations.

"[Government] does recognize how important this program is and have been very supportive of us going in the schools to put [AEDs] in and to train their staff."

Butt said an AED costs just under $2000, and that members of the Heart and Stroke foundation can train up to eight people in a school for another $800.

600 to 800 arrests in N.L. each year

She said the rough cost to have them installed in the remainder of the province's schools would be about $500,000.

"This is not an expensive piece of equipment, I think we just need to change the mindset and make sure that we understand that these are critical pieces of equipment that should be right next to the gathering area of the school or in the gymnasium or should be considered no differently than a smoke detector or fire extinguisher," Butt said.

She adds that cardiac arrest is "the most prevalent medical emergency today."

Butt said that in Newfoundland there are between 600 and 800 cardiac arrests each year, most of them being men who suffer them.

She said that less than five per cent of them will survive outside the hospital setting, and that conditions like ARVC are just one of any number of causes that can lead to an arrhythmia.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation gives the following breakdown of which schools have AEDs and which don't:

  • Of the 114 schools in Eastern Newfoundland, 23 AEDs have been installed, 91 are without. 
  • Of the 64 schools in Central Newfoundland, three AEDs have been installed, 61 don't have them.
  • Of the 61 schools in Western Newfoundland, 21 AEDs have been installed, 40 don't have them.
  • Of the 15 schools in Labrador, three AEDs have been installed, 12 don't have them.
  • Of the eight private, native or 'other' schools in the province, all eight don't have them.
  • And of the six francophone schools, one AED has been installed, five are without.