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AED saves high schooler's life, but OHSAA only 'strongly recommends' them at school sporting events

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Revere High School track
Posted at 4:54 PM, Jan 04, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-04 19:22:06-05

RICHFIELD, Ohio — Damar Hamlin collapsing shocked the nation, but hit close to home. Doctors say heart health doesn't discriminate against age.

“If we can heighten the awareness with this real tragedy that we are kind of living through today, maybe, we can get some positivity out of what is really a scary event," Joseph Congeni, medical director of Sports Medicine Center at Akron Children’s Hospital.

Just seven years ago, Revere High School became the poster child exemplifying how to save a student's life.

“When you hear someone say, 'Do I need to call 911,' it instantly kind of puts you in the motion, yeah this is pretty serious,” said Brian Racin, former Revere High School track coach.

Former student, then 16-year-old Caleb Perkins, went into cardiac arrest during track practice. Only fight, not flight, kicked in for his former coach.

“The athletic trainers were the ones, as I'm continuing compressions, they were able to get the stickers put on,” Racin said. “Once that was attached to him, the shock was initiated onto Caleb.”

The medical response given to Caleb, first administering CPR then an AED, mirrored the medical response given to Hamlin.

Each second matters when responding to someone suffering from cardiac arrest, but so does having an accessible AED.

“Anytime you have a cardiac arrest, time is of the essence,” said Lauri Kelly, Revere High School athletic trainer. “The faster you can get an AED on a patient and get it going, get them shocked if they need it, the faster that happens, the more chance you have of bringing the patient back and being successful.”

Caleb was lucky his district was prepared because in Ohio, AED machines are not required to be on-site at every school-related sporting event. Instead, the Ohio High School Athletic Association tells News 5 it only “strongly recommends” them.

Revere High School still has AED machines scattered throughout the entire high school.

“They’ve very important to have, not only for our student-athletes, but also for our cheerleaders, our fans, our coaches,” said Don Seeker, Revere High School athletic director.

Seeker said OHSAA now uses a video of Caleb in one of its mandatory coaching training videos as a golden example of what to do when a heart stops. Caleb is now in his 20s and happily married, but until AED’s are mandatory at all Ohio school sporting events, not every student may get such a happy ending.

“Let’s get AED’s to everywhere where kids play sports,” said Congeni. “There’s no reason in this day and age this lifesaving tool shouldn’t be everywhere.”

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