Skylar Wilson of Muscle Shoals is an active, healthy middle schooler. On October 15, 2018, she experienced sudden cardiac arrest while at school. Her life was saved by an AED (Automated External Defibrillator). Alabama LifeStart, a program of Children’s of Alabama in Birmingham, is ensuring access to these lifesaving devices in schools across the state. Read more about the program and Skylar’s story.
Jessica Wilson, Skylar’s mother, explained that October 15 was a typical day. Skylar rode her bike to school with her twin sister, Sadie. While they were in keyboarding class, Skylar suddenly slumped over in her chair. Before Skylar fell to the floor, Sadie caught her and called for help.
“They immediately pulled the students out of the classroom,” said Wilson. The school nurse, Kelly Word, began performing CPR right away. Before she completed the first round, the school principal arrived with an AED. A shock was administered, and Word continued CPR before paramedics arrived to take Skylar to the hospital. Wilson is convinced that the school’s quick action saved Skylar’s life.
There were no warning signs of the event. Skylar had no medical history, and genetic testing indicated everything with her heart looked normal. “We never thought it would happen to our kid,” said Wilson.
The facts about cardiac arrest
The scary reality is that more than 7,000 children die each year from cardiac arrest, according to the American Heart Association. Without immediate treatment, the survival rate of cardiac arrest is five to ten percent. AEDs increase this rate to 50 percent–that’s a huge difference.
Cris Brown, director of Children’s of Alabama’s LifeStart program, wanted to make sure more AEDs were placed in Alabama schools. He worked with Dr. Yung Lau and Barbara Mostella of UAB to create the program back in 2008.
At the program’s inception, twenty Alabama school systems were without AEDs–that’s hundreds of schools in our state without access. As of 2011, every public middle school, junior high and high school in the state had at least one AED in the building, thanks in large part to Alabama LifeStart. The program was made possible by a grant from Children’s of Alabama and corporate sponsors like Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama and Alabama Power.
Why schools need AED training
Not only does Alabama LifeStart provide AEDs, but they also empower schools with training resources. The program encourages schools to adopt AED drills as they do fire drills and other safety exercises. “It’s important that the schools have AEDs, but they have to know what to do with them,” said Brown.
Alabama LifeStart partners with Project ADAM, a nonprofit based out of Wisconsin, to provide AED training resources. A school can be certified as “Heart Safe” by installing an AED and completing training on how to use it, along with several other requirements. Alabama LifeStart provides free AED trainers to schools that want to be certified as “Heart Safe.”
Wilson said the training in her daughter’s school made all the difference. “I commend the school for taking the initiative to have the proper equipment and learn the skills to take care of the kids,” she said.
The impact of Alabama LifeStart
Alabama LifeStart has provided AEDs, AED trainers and resource materials to approximately 400 schools across the state. At least four students’ lives have been saved as a direct result of the Alabama LifeStart program.
An update on Skylar
Skylar is back to her normal middle school activities. She had an AICD (Automatic Implantable Cardioverter-Defibrillator) device implanted in her heart, but it’s never gone off. In addition to playing a full season of basketball and soccer, she joined her school’s cross-country team. We hear she recently crushed a 5k!
To learn more about the Alabama LifeStart program or inquire about AED materials, visit their website.
We’re pumped to have this life-saving program in Birmingham!