Schools receive AEDs

By Lesley Jenkins
Star Staff
ljenkins@starhq.com

   The Power of Life campaign and Mountain States Health Alliance have joined together to donate four new Automated External Defibrillators to four Carter County schools.
   Representatives from Unaka High School, Elizabethton High School, Cloudland High School and Hampton High School were presented AEDs by Gary Smith, founder of the Power of Life, and Scott Williams, CEO of Sycamore Shoals Hospital.
   Smith was refereeing a basketball game at Happy Valley Middle School on Nov. 17, 2003, when he suffered a massive heart attack during the fourth quarter. Luckily, several nurses and volunteer firefighters were in the stands and were able to immediately start cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
   The fans' efforts and those of the first responders with the West Carter County Volunteer Fire Department saved Smith's life. According to doctors, Smith would not have survived if CPR began any later or if his heart was not shocked back into a normal rhythm by the AED.
   Smith began the "Power of Life" campaign to raise money to purchase AEDs for all Carter County high schools. MSHA joined by matching dollar for dollar the donated money. Each AED bought by the fund is matched by MSHA and employees with MSHA have offered to teach school employees the proper way to use the equipment.
   "We really appreciate Gary Smith and everything he has done to achieve this wonderful goal, to have these in every school. Gary Smith is the one who really made the difference. It is an unfortunate thing that happened to him at Happy Valley. But his efforts since then have not only made us aware of the need for these machines in the schools, but he has also been the motivation and incentive for us to achieve this," said Dallas Williams, Carter County Schools superintendent.
   Donations are still being accepted to purchase AEDs for the remaining elementary and middle schools in the city of Elizabethton and Carter County.
   Smith said he has commitments from two other sources for two more AEDs, which will again be matched by MSHA. He will choose which schools receive the next AEDs.
   "Then we will start hitting the middle schools, and hopefully get the elementary schools soon," Smith said.
   Scott Williams said, "Once again, Sycamore Shoals Hospital feels this is an important project. We feel the community needs to get behind this. I firmly believe the equipment that is going to be in these facilities is going to save lives.
   "This is probably the most important piece of equipment in treating early cardiac arrest since CPR. We are happy to do this, but quite frankly we are disappointed that it is not moving any faster than it is moving. We need to be getting behind this as a community. We need to get these into all the schools.
   Williams does not know of another program like the Power of Life in the area.
   To make a donation to the "Power of Life" mail donations or contact: Carter County Bank, c/o Janice Carver, Main Office, 601 East Elk Avenue, Elizabethton, TN 37643.