Baltimore Middle Schools Receive Lifesaving Donation of Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs)
Johns Hopkins Medicine has teamed up with a local philanthropic foundation to provide automated external defibrillators (AEDs), to 10 Baltimore City middle schools for use, if needed, during sporting events and practices. The portable devices, which are used to shock the heart back into a normal rhythm, can save the life of a student athlete, coach or spectator who collapses during practice or a game due to a heart rhythm disorder that causes sudden cardiac arrest.
The AEDs were donated on Sept. 24, 2013, at the Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Baltimore at an event with officials of Johns Hopkins Medicine, the Israel and Mollie Myers Foundation and principals and coaches from the schools receiving the AEDs.
Each year, about 300,000 cases of sudden cardiac arrest occur in the United States. Most are among adults, yet more than 3,000 young people die annually from sudden cardiac death. These deaths often occur during rigorous physical activity, such as at sporting events.
The idea for the AED donation to city schools began with Theodore Abraham, M.D., a cardiologist and associate professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “Every minute counts when someone’s heart stops beating,” says Abraham. “CPR can keep the blood circulating, but the only way to restore the heart’s normal pumping ability is to shock it back into rhythm. That’s why AEDs are so important to have on hand and use as soon as possible.”
The Israel and Mollie Myers Foundation gave $10,000 to fund the AED donation to the Baltimore City middle schools. “This is a gift that may one day give life back to someone,” says Jon Myers, a trustee of the foundation and a member of the Cardiovascular Advisory Board at Johns Hopkins. Myers says a major goal of his foundation is to help young people in Baltimore.
“I was delighted to hear that the Baltimore high schools had AEDs for their athletic programs,” he says. But there was clearly a need for the middle schools to have them.”
One of the most common reasons for sudden cardiac death among young people each year is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), an inherited condition that causes thickening of the heart muscle that impedes blood flow and can cause heart rhythm problems.
Abraham is the director of the Johns Hopkins Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Center of Excellence. The center conducts the Heart Hype screening program periodically at area schools to identify teenagers and young adults at risk for HCM, which affects about 1 in every 500 people. Such screenings include an electrocardiogram (EKG) and an echocardiogram, an ultrasound test that looks at the structure of the heart. Abraham says screening for HCM is not part of the usual health evaluation for student athletes.
“Screening and detection are very important, but not all young athletes who have HCM or other heart disorders have been identified. For them, an AED is an important lifesaving tool. In cardiac arrest, every minute without defibrillation reduces the chance of survival by 10 percent. So within 10 minutes, a person is unlikely to survive unless his heart is shocked back into a normal rhythm,” adds Abraham.
Ironically, after the foundation made the donation for the defibrillators, Myers learned that he has a mild form of HCM and is having members of his family screened for the disorder. “I heard Dr. Abraham speak about HCM, and I recalled that a relative had suffered sudden cardiac arrest, so I decided to be tested,” he says, adding, “What an unusual coincidence.”
The following schools are receiving the donated AEDs:
• Roland Park Elementary/Middle School
• Lakeland Elementary/Middle School
• Booker T. Washington Elementary/Middle School
• Calverton Middle School
• Morrell Park Middle School
• Armistead Gardens Middle School
• Glenmount Middle School
• Curtis Bay Middle School
• Franklin Square Middle School
• Highlandtown Middle School