Just one month into the school year, one teen in Dallas died in gym class, four Houston area students collapsed and died during school activities, and an Austin High School student had a close call that was personal to my family. Matt Nader is my cousin. You may remember his grandfather, Sam Nader. He preached in Lubbock at First United Methodist for 17 years. Matt, number 70 at Westlake High, collapsed on the field during a Friday night football game.
Matt Nader was the picture of health and athleticism until he collapsed between plays just seconds after this picture was taken. He fell back from the bench with his cleats still in view. His parents, both doctors, rushed to the field and gave him CPR and chest compressions for several minutes. But Matt, still not breathing, was turning blue. That's when another doctor at the game rushed to the scene and used a defibrillator that literally shocked Matt back into this world.
Dr. Guy Wells, a Lubbock cardiologist, explains it like this: "Cardiac arrest means the heart is fibrillating which means its pumping so fast it does not pump blood, when it does that for ten or twelve minutes the individual suffers brain damage and usually dies from that. So, the defibrillator is just like you see in the old days where you put it on the chest and shock them back to life, that sends 300,000 bolts through there body to shock the rhythm back to normal."
Dr. Wells says Matt is among just four percent of those who drop dead for no apparent reason and survive. So, how many of our schools are equipped to save a life in a rare, but real crisis like that?
"We have five AEDS in our district; one at every school. and one that I carry with me to every athletic event I go to," said "Doc" Pat Brown, a Lubbock Cooper High School trainer.
Lubbock Cooper is the exception. If there were a crisis like Matt's on the field this Friday night, most school districts on the South Plains do not have an AED available on campus... even though it seems all the schools have coaches and teachers who are trained to use a defibrillator, if they had one.
"We're talking about saving the lives of young people that are growing up." That was the message from Lt. Governor David Dewhurst at a recent news conference with Matt Nader standing by his side. They made a plea together that every Texas school should have at least one automated external defibrillator, or AED on every campus."
Also, this week, the University of Interscholastic League agreed to require an AED at every member high school but with no mention of how to pay for it or whether to make them available at elementary and middle schools as well. So, defibrillator companies like CP Support are hurrying to find out which South Plains schools are in need.
"I've got some that are saying yes, we are looking at it. Yes, we are waiting on some grant funding. We are trying to re-arrange the budget." That's according to Jeriami St. Clair who sells AEDs for CP Support. He says many schools are hoping grant money or booster clubs will help provide AEDs for their campuses. That's a lofty goal for some since the device can vary in price from $1,000 to $3,000.
Estimates are it will cost up to $24 million to protect all the schools in Texas with this portable life-saver. Even so, Dr. Wells says the need is great. "The American Heart Association says that out of the ninety-five percent of individuals that suffer cardiac arrest, if they don't have a defibrillator present, they will expire, they will die from the event," said Dr. Wells.
Today, Matt wears a tiny defibrillator which has been implanted near his shoulder in case his heart ever stops again. He'll never play football but that's a small price to pay to be among the small percentage who collapse in a school activity... and live to tell about it.
There are no AEDs at any LISD campus right now. However, the school district has just purchased 22 defibrillators that will be stationed at every high school and middle school and also at Lowrey field. NewsChannel 11 will let you know when they arrive.