TUCSON, Ariz. – In an unparalleled move to prevent avoidable deaths from sudden cardiac arrest, the Steven M. Gootter Foundation is providing automated external defibrillators (AEDs) to Southern Arizona public and private high schools that lack these life-saving devices.
The foundation also will donate AEDs to the Tucson Boys and Girls Clubs and the Jim Reffkin Tennis Center, formerly Randolph Tennis Center. All schools and institutions will receive training on the AEDs through The University of Arizona Sarver Heart Center.
The sudden collapse of Cienega High School student Emilio Martinez during weightlifting class in April triggered the initiative, said Gootter Foundation spokesperson Claudine Messing. The student survived only because his school had an AED readily accessible onsite.
Even though AEDs are becoming increasingly accessible in public places like airports, convention centers and shopping malls, schools often lack the funding to acquire a defibrillator or the resources necessary for training and overseeing their use and maintenance.
“We realized that our foundation could make a real difference in alleviating this issue,” Messing said. “The response and interest from the schools has been overwhelming.”
“Sudden cardiac arrest is often associated with young athletes under intense physical stress. However, it is the leading cause of natural death in the United States and can strike anyone at any age,” said Lani Clark, director of the SHARE program, which oversees AED programs across the state. SHARE stands for Save Hearts in Arizona Registry and Education (www.azshare.gov).
“High schools are concerned not only about their student population, but also about the safety of their staff, as well as parents and other members of the public that come together during the various events they hold during the year,” she added.
“For someone whose heart has stopped pumping blood, a quick response from bystanders is crucial,” Clark explained. “With each minute that passes and if no one does anything except call 9-1-1, the chances of survival keep spiraling down by about 10 percent. “By the time you get close to 10 minutes with no one doing uninterrupted chest compressions or getting an AED, the person’s chance of survival is slim to none.”
The Steven M. Gootter Foundation Board of Directors and supporters are committed to sparing families the tragedy of losing a loved one to this silent killer that takes 1,000 lives a day, more than cancer and AIDS combined, said Messing.
Combating the condition that took the life of 42-year-old Tucsonan Steven M. Gootter, whose life was cut short by sudden cardiac arrest while out on a morning jog on February 10, 2005, has been the driving force behind the foundation. In the four years since his untimely death, more than $1 million has been raised through the annual Gootter Grand Slam tennis tournament and pro-exhibition held in honor of the late Mr. Gootter, who was an accomplished tennis player. The money has been used to fund research projects and create the Steven M. Gootter Endowed Chair for the Prevention and Treatment of Sudden Cardiac Death at The University of Arizona Sarver Heart Center.
The Steven M. Gootter Foundation is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit charitable organization dedicated to the mission of defeating sudden cardiac death (SCD). To achieve this mission, the foundation has partnered with the UA Sarver Heart Center to fund scientific research into the causes and prevention of sudden cardiac death. The foundation works to increase awareness of SCD among those who may be at risk, and fosters education about SCD among health-care professionals and the public. For more information on sudden cardiac death and the Steven M. Gootter Foundation, please visit http://www.gootter.org or call Claudine Messing at (520) 615-6430.
The University of Arizona Sarver Heart Center (www.heart.arizona.edu) is committed to increasing the survival rates from sudden cardiac arrest through educating the public in the use of Compression-Only CPR, developing modified protocols for Emergency Medical Services personnel and designation of hospitals as Cardiac Arrest Centers to provide optimal post-arrest care.
Daniel Stolte, UA Sarver Heart Center, (520) 626-4083;
Claudine Messing, Steven M. Gootter Foundation, (520) 615-6430