B.C. family fights for AEDs in public places
Published Thursday, March 18, 2010 7:37PM PDT
A Burnaby family is pushing for B.C. sports facilities and schools to embrace an easy-to-use automated external defibrillator that can save lives in the event of cardiac arrest.
After Gianfranco Giammaria died three years ago at a Burnaby ice rink, his wife, his friends, and his co-workers started a society in his name that has outfitted 33 Burnaby facilities, many catholic schools, and has its eyes on installing the devices in Vancouver public buildings.
"I said I wanted to put as many defibrillators in as fire extinguishers, and it snowballed into a huge event," said Giammaria's wife Denise. "We didn't put in just one, we put in many more."
Giammaria was a catholic school principal in his mid-30s when he collapsed at an ice rink. According to his wife, the rink had a defibrillator that could have saved his life -- but it was far away, locked in an office.
Denise wanted there to be defibrillators much closer to the rinks, and pushed for it with help from the newly minted Gianfranco Giammaria Memorial Society. More defibrillators were installed at the facility -- and that was just the beginning.
The defibrillators greatly increase a person's chance of surviving cardiac arrest. One person's life was saved recently at C. G. Brown Memorial Pool, she said.
Denise said the toughest thing about putting defibrillators in public buildings is not the cost -- the GGMS raises the $1500 each through an annual charity hockey game.
Instead, it's convincing the owners of the facilities that they aren't taking on any extra liability by installing the devices, she said.
"You tell them that it's nothing new -- and sometimes you just have to shake your head," she said.
In an interview with CTV News, B.C.'s Healthy Living Minister Ida Chong says B.C.'s Good Samaritan laws remove liability from anyone using a defibrillator in good faith.
"Currently British Columbians can feel comfortable knowing that the Good Samaritan Act covers them," she said.
The GGMS is not the only group pushing for defibrillators in public areas -- and succeeding.
At South Delta Secondary School, the parent advisory council approached the school board and the school principal for approval to install a defibrillator. When they agreed, parent Debbie Stevens was able to use some of the B.C. government's gaming grant on the project.
The equipment has now been in the school for about 12 months. In total, installation, training, and maintenance for the four-year battery life of the defibrillator was about $3600.
But when asked how much the whole project cost the school and the school board, she said, "Nothing. Not a cent."
B.C. paramedic Jeff Burko trained the staff at South Delta to use the defibrillators. He says his training cost $69 per person for a two-hour course that could cost them hundreds of dollars at market rates.
Burko said he'd work with North Vancouver School District to help them train staff if a defibrillator is installed in memory of David Badger, who died at Argyle Secondary School four years ago.
"It's a no-brainer," he said. "I want to see this in every school and I'll get it to happen. I'll donate my time to do it to get it into schools."
CTV News called North Vancouver to relay the offers of help and encouragement, but neither communications manager Victoria Miles, Superintendent John Lewis, or board chair Susan Skinner returned phone calls and e-mails.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Jon Woodward