First AED donated to school by MSHA and 'Power of Life'

By Lesley Jenkins
star staff

An Automated External Defibrillator can make all the difference in saving a person's life when used soon enough after a heart attack. Gary Smith knows this fact all to well.
   Smith suffered a heart attack while refereeing a basketball game on Nov. 17, 2003. Several nurses and volunteer firefighters were in the stands and were able to immediately start Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation.
   Combined rescue efforts by the fans and by First Responders of the West Carter County Fire Department saved Smith's life, who shocked his heart into a normal rhythm with an AED. According to his doctors, Smith would likely have not survived if CPR was started any later or if his heart was not shocked back into a normal rhythm by the AED.
   After recovering from heart surgery, Smith was aware of the need for this life saving equipment in Carter County schools. The "Power of Life" fund was started in hopes of buying AEDs for all the county schools.
   Scott Williams, CEO of Sycamore Shoals Hospital, announced that Mountain States Health Alliance decided to participate in the life saving endeavor by matching each dollar donated to the "Power of Life."
   The first AED, which cost about $1,850, was donated on Friday to Dallas Williams, Director of Carter County Schools. In honor of the location where Smith suffered the heart attack, this AED will be placed at Happy Valley High School, which will also service the middle school.
   Enough money has also been donated to purchase two more machines, which will be matched again by MSHA.
   Smith said one person who made a significant donation wanted one AED to go to Stoney Creek Volunteer Fire Department.
   Dallas Williams said he plans on placing the other AEDs in the county's high schools. County school officials will be educated on how to operate the equipment by the system's nurses.
   Smith said, "Hopefully we can place these units in all of the county schools and they will never have to be used. But if one of them has to be used to save a life it will be worth a million bucks."
   Dallas Williams said, "I am just elated. We came over here today realizing we were going to have one donated to the school system. And as we have been talking to Gary we are now going to have two more right away and then matched by the foundation. We are very pleased and very appreciative. We thank Gary so much."
   "I feel AEDs is going to be a very important piece of equipment to helping the citizens of Carter County overcome heart disease. I think this piece of equipment is probably the best defense against sudden cardiac death that we've had since CPR, and Mountain States is glad to help," Scott Williams said.
   To donate to the "Power of Life," mail or drop donations by the Carter County Bank, c/o Janice Carver, Main Office, 601 East Elk Ave., Elizabethton, TN 37643-3329, or call 542-7261.