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More AEDs coming to USD 373 thanks to students, donors
Posted 1/20/23

USD 373 athletic trainer Katrina Steiner and junior Abby Koontz pose with an AED​​​​​​​The number of Automatic External Defibrillators (AED) in USD 373 will soon increase thanks to the Health Occupations for Students of America club and generous community donors.

According to OSHA, an AED is a medical device designed to analyze the heart rhythm and deliver an electric shock to victims of ventricular fibrillation to restore the heart rhythm to normal.

Recently, AEDs have been in the news following the collapse of Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin on the field of an NFL game. Crews used CPR and an AED to restore Hamlin’s heartbeat and pulse on the field before he was transferred to a nearby medical center.

Abby Koontz is a junior at Newton High School and president of HOSA. Koontz tells us the hospital was planning a fundraiser for AEDs before the COVID-19 pandemic, but due to the pandemic, they had to drop their plans. Abby's mother, Dr. Jennifer Koontz, works at NMC Health and serves as the NHS team physician.

In discussions with athletic director Brian Becker, NHS principal Blake Smith, athletic trainer Katrina Steiner and Dr. Koontz, Abby and everyone identified the need for more AEDs within the Newton school district.

Currently, the district has four AEDs: two at NHS, one at Chisholm and one at Santa Fe. Maintenance staff perform monthly checks on the AEDs to ensure they are working properly and change batteries as needed.

“In many communities, they raise money for the proper number of AEDs only after a sudden cardiac arrest tragedy happens. Why wait for a tragic accident to occur in our schools when we can do our best to prevent that from happening?” Abby said.

Students in HOSA along with sponsors Fredrick Schmidt and Richard Mick sent letters to doctors, businesses and clubs within the Newton community soliciting donations for AEDs.

The letter states, in part: The chance of survival goes down by 10% for every minute that goes by that an AED is not used, so it’s important for an AED to be applied and used within 5-6 minutes.

Railer Services owner Andy Ruth was one of the donors of an AED. He sees the value in having these machines located at places where the public gathers, such as parents and grandparents attending an athletic event.

“I personally have seen medical emergencies in the stands during school events I have attended. Having this equipment readily available could make the difference between life and death,” Ruth said.

Abby and club have fundraised nearly $10,000 from a dozen donors to purchase several more AEDs to be kept at Newton High School and elsewhere throughout the district, surpassing the original goal of $6,000.

AEDs are about $1,000 apiece but can be more expensive, but that’s a price Abby deems worth fundraising for.

“Cardiac arrests are very serious and life-threatening health problems. 400,000 sudden cardiac arrests occur each year in the United States with only a 10% survival rate, affecting people of all ages. I have had a family member die from a heart attack before, and what makes it even more sad is knowing that there was something that could have saved him,” Abby said.

Donors will be recognized at a Newton High basketball game during Heart Month in February 2023.

(Photo: USD 373 athletic trainer Katrina Steiner and junior Abby Koontz pose with an AED.)