Island non-profit raising funds to buy AEDs for emergencies
The Sanibel Sea School is asking for the community’s support to help it add automatic external defibrillators to its vehicles and vessels, making the islands safer for residents and visitors.
Earlier in July, the non-profit organization launched “A Safer Sanibel” via Mightycause – an online fundraising campaign to collect $11,000 to buy 10 AEDs. Executive Director Dr. Bruce Neill explained that the safety of clients and the community is prioritized above all of the other services that it offers.
“We are a field institution and we are mobile,” he said. “In cardiac events, minutes count. If we can respond immediately, we may be better able to save a life.”
In one year alone, an estimated 475,000 Americans die from cardiac arrest.
“SCA (sudden cardiac arrest) is a leading cause of death in the United States,” Tim Barrett, training captain with the Sanibel Fire and Rescue District, reported. “More than 350,000 cardiac arrests occur outside of the hospital each year. Twelve percent of those victims survive.”
According to the Sanibel Sea School, data from 2014 found that nearly 45 percent of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest victims survived when CPR, AED or both were administered to them by bystanders.
“SCA can happen to anyone at any time,” Barrett said. “It is important for companies and organizations to implement AED programs, so employees are prepared to respond to an SCA emergency.”
Development Director Chrissy Basturk explained that the Sanibel Sea School already has AEDs in the buildings on its main campus, but the staff who are out in the field daily do not have access to them.
All of the members of its education team are lifeguard, first-aid and CPR certified.
She noted that the organization’s vehicles and vessels are out in the field more than 700 days per year on average, from the Sanibel Causeway to Captiva, and each one currently contains a first aid kit.
In fact, staff often provide first aid help to people while out and about in the community.
“It’s not uncommon for one to stop and help someone on the bike path or the beach,” Basturk said, adding that the latter is typically cuts or wounds from seashells and such.
Emmett Horvath, a marine science instructor at the Sanibel Sea School, came up with the idea earlier this year while taking a lifeguarding course to add AEDs to the organization’s vehicles and vessels.
“I realized that while we had the training to use these devices, we lacked the proper tools to implement that training,” he said. “In the event of an emergency, we would be unable to put our training to use.”
AED training is already incorporated into the training required for their CPR certification.
“We spend a lot of time in and around the water, and the one of our most likely emergency scenarios is drowning,” Horvath said. “Decreasing the amount of time a heart is stopped is essential to increasing the odds of survival for a victim of cardiac arrest.”
“Though we do not travel to extremely remote field locations, the vast majority of the locations we visit do not have an AED nearby,” he added. “Adding an AED to each vehicle will ensure that if an emergency does occur, whether it be with one of our students, staff or a bystander, we will be able to step in and use our training and the necessary equipment to respond better and faster.”
Basturk pointed out that the vehicles and vessels will carry the AED sticker.
“They will be marked that we have the AEDs,” she said.
As of July 20, more than $3,400 had been raised.
“It’s all positive and generous,” Basturk said of the community’s feedback so far.
The online campaign will only remain active for 30 days. However, people can simply contact the Sanibel Sea School at 239-472-8585 or stop by the main campus, at 455 Periwinkle Way, and donate.
“They can always reach out to us,” she said.
Neill noted that the significance of the devices becomes apparent when a life is saved by one.
“Let’s face it, we live in a small community, and the more life-saving equipment available to our predominantly older community members will make our town potentially just a little bit better,” he said. “Having an AED could literally mean the difference between life or death.”
For more information or to donate, visit www.mightycause.com/story/Asafersanibel.