State Senator Will Haskell (D-Westport) and State Representative Aimee Berger-Girvalo (D-Ridgefield) today rallied around legislation they co-introduced aimed at saving lives and preventing further tragedy in the name of their constituents. Senate Bill 110, currently being considered by the Public Health Committee, would require health clubs and athletic facilities to provide and maintain automatic external defibrillators, or AEDs. Sen. Haskell and Rep. Berger-Girvalo introduced the language after meeting Suzanne Bellagamba Brennan.
"Tragically, my husband and father of three suffered a cardiac event in 2012 and died while at a Ridgefield health club," said Brennan. "His chances of survival would have been drastically improved while awaiting help from EMS had an AED device and trained staff been on site. Four years later, another Ridgefield father suffered a near-fatal cardiac event at the same gym. Fortunately, this father survived, largely because of a trained staff person who immediately came to his aid. This staff member was taking a personal training course of his own accord. It is indisputable that the likelihood of sudden cardiac arrest increases in health clubs where people are intentionally raising their heart rates. Recognizing that there is a decrease in fatality rates with the immediate use of an AED and trained staff, this bill will help save lives. I want Connecticut to enact this law, like others already have, to help another family avoid the heartbreaking and unnecessary loss of a loved one."
"Suzanne has faced tragedy and loss. Her advocacy, outreach and desire to help others and save lives is nothing less than extraordinary," said Sen. Haskell. "This legislation sees a serious problem and finds a solution that will save lives if passed. For Suzanne and her family and others who have lost loved ones, or come close to it, we owe it to them to protect the public from this very real problem."
“Suzanne has inspired me, and so many of my colleagues, as she has taken her family’s unimaginable loss, and all that they experienced in the wake of sudden tragedy, and channeled it toward an endeavor that will help save the lives of so many others," said Rep. Berger-Girvalo. "If ever there were an example of the way a single person can bring about real and meaningful change, Suzanne is it. I am proud to stand with Suzanne, and do whatever I can do to help her get this legislation passed.”
Senate Bill 110,"An Act Requiring An Automatic External Defibrillator in Health Clubs and Athletic Facilities," introduced by Sen. Haskell and Rep. Berger-Girvalo, would require health clubs and athletic facilities to have AED devices on site with at least one employee or volunteer qualified in understanding how to use them, additionally limiting liability of health clubs and employees from non-negligent use of AEDs. That employee training could be as simple as an employee watching an informative training video.
In health clubs and athletic facilities, where people are pushing themselves through strenuous exercise and increasing their heart rates, there is a higher risk of cardiac arrest. Studies have shown that risk of death in the event of a cardiac event declines with immediate use of an AED along with CPR, with a 2018 study finding the odds of survival more than double if an AED is on hand. Conversely, chance of survival from cardiac events decreases by up to 10 percent every minute defibrillation is not performed; emergency medical services on average need four to ten minutes to respond to a distress call.
In recent years, AEDs have become increasingly mandated across Connecticut. Public golf courses and schools are among locations now required to have AEDs and trained staff on site. Several other states, including Massachusetts, have enacted similar laws for health clubs and athletic facilities.