Vanderbilt University Medical Center reports on school AED initiative success

by Jessica Pasley

Just before the second bell rang at Station Camp High School in Gallatin, Tennessee, Linton Beck, 16, was sitting at his desk talking to a fellow student.

The room was filling with students waiting for chemistry class to start.

Then Linton’s eyes rolled back, and he slumped over.

His classmate immediately sprang into action and alerted the teacher, which set off a series of life-saving events.

Linton was having a sudden cardiac arrest.

Station Camp High School is among 326 schools to achieve the Heart Safe School designation through Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt’s Project ADAM (Automated Defibrillators in Adam’s Memory).

Project ADAM is a national organization committed to making schools “heart safe” by preventing sudden cardiac death in schools and communities through education and life-saving programs.

“The presence of AEDs in schools and throughout the community, combined with people who are prepared to respond, is key to saving lives,” said English Flack, MD, assistant professor of Pediatric Cardiology and medical director of Project ADAM Middle Tennessee. “Sumner County has been a shining example of emergency preparedness, and Linton’s school has consistently engaged with us to perform their annual AED drills in compliance with Tennessee legislation.

“Our goal is for every school in Middle Tennessee to have a practiced sudden cardiac arrest emergency response plan in order to act in the very manner that Linton’s school did.”

Linton and his family are grateful that the school was prepared.

“I don’t remember anything from the event,” said Linton. “I remember walking to class and then I remember waking up in the hospital.

“I’m just happy I was in the right place at the right time; I was around people who knew what to do. There was a plan in place.

“In the past, I noticed there’s a box on the wall saying AED, but now that I’ve gone through this, that sign is a bigger deal.

“I will be more alert to where AEDs are located when I am out. It will be on my radar to get training to help others.”

Children’s Hospital’s Project ADAM is one of 34 affiliate organizations across 26 states. The program recently celebrated its fifth anniversary.

“What an incredible gift of life we now celebrate,” said Flack.

An estimated 350,000 out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrests occur each year in the United States, and about 7,000 of those are in people younger than 18. The national survival rate for sudden cardiac arrest is less than 12%, according to the American Heart Association.

“Because of the quick response of the school staff, Linton is alive and will be able to continue being a member of the cross country team,” said Stephen Beck, Linton’s dad. “My son is here today because of the school’s response. They reacted. They were trained. They were prepared.”

Linton has been running cross country since the third grade. He had no previous health issues.

Station Camp High School has five AEDs on school grounds.

Sumner County Schools was one of the first school districts in the Midstate to achieve the Heart Safe School designation in 2018. In addition to that element of training, each school in the district has a S.E.T. (School Emergency Team) program. To become a S.E.T. member, participants must complete several hours of training outside of school hours. A sign on a classroom or office door designates team members.

Linton’s chemistry teacher, Jeremy Bartlett, was a S.E.T. participant who had recently fulfilled his CPR, AED and first aid training.

“Preparedness is the key piece here,” said Flack. “The S.E.T. members did an amazing job. The nursing team of Sumner County schools has a rigorous training program for the teachers and coaches who bravely serve on this emergency response team.

“Using the guiding principles for the Project ADAM Heart Safe School designation, they are able to prepare for such an event.”

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