Tender Heartbeats provides defibrillator to Edgemont Elementary

From left, Dennis Pratt, principal of Edgemont Elementary, is presented with an automated external defibrillator for his school by Carolyn Quigley, founder of Tender Heartbeats, and Mike Chamberlain, owner of Edgemont Pharmacy Monday, March 4, 2013. MARK JOHNSTON/Daily Herald

Mark Johnston

PROVO -- When Marty Evans registered her children at Edgemont Elementary School in north Provo, one of the first things she asked was whether the school had a defibrillator available.

Her daughter, who is in first grade this year, has heart problems and she hoped the school would be prepared.

"She spends seven hours of her day here," she said. "To have this safety device and understand that it would be right here in this school and people would be trained to use it is great. This is a life-changing device for my child that has a serious heart defect."

Enter Tender Heartbeats.

The nonprofit organization is made up of five moms who each have a child with a congenital heart defect. They arranged for the donation of an automated external defibrillator to Edgemont. They have also placed three other AEDs -- all made available through donations -- since mid-February. Two were in the Salt Lake area and one was in Kaysville. Another will be donated in mid-March to C.S. Lewis Academy in Santaquin.

Michelle Hiles, of Provo, serves as secretary of Tender Heartbeats. She said the group has only been in existence for about six months and just started placing the AEDs in schools.

She knows firsthand about the need for such a device.

"I personally was an undiagnosed child growing up," she said. "I had a heart defect. I went into cardiac arrest when I was 11 years old. It was a random day. My parents had no idea. My dad was a police officer at the time and was one of the first responders." She credits that treatment with saving her life.

Not only does she have that experience, but her daughter had a heart transplant when she was 18 months old.

Edgemont principal Dennis Pratt said the school district was working on providing defibrillators, but had plans to start with high schools first. He said he was pleased to have one sooner than the district schedule would have provided.

"When they shared the news that some organization was willing to give us one, we said we really wanted it," he said.

Edgemont's school nurse, Heather Chatwin, said she was aware of four students at the school with heart conditions. It will be good to have the defibrillator on hand, she said.

"I have seven schools I cover in 30 hours a week," she said. "Knowing that there is something that the staff can use in an emergency is comforting to the parents and the school staff. I am grateful for parents who pushed the issue and kept at it."

The device can save lives.

"The sooner you get an AED on the scene the higher the chance of survival," she said.

Carolyn Quigley is president of Tender Heartbeats. When the group presented the device to the school on Monday, she said it was a good move.

"If you have a need we have this here for you," she said. "Saving every life is precious. We care about you." She thanked Mike Chamberlain, the owner of Edgemont Pharmacy, for donating the funds to purchase the defibrillator. The nonprofit organization relies strictly on donations and no one receives a salary, she said.

"A lot of the kids' parents come to the pharmacy to get medicine," Chamberlain said. "I am happy to help in any way I can. It is neat to think this donation can possibly save somebody's life. I am happy to help out the community and give back to them."

Hiles said it was important to have the defibrillator, not only for the school, but for the community.

"The schools are a melting pot of our community," she said. "We have teachers, kids, volunteers, assemblies. We need it here just like the library and the police department."

Edgemont mom Shantel Gehring said as an adult who visits the school, she could conceivably make use of an AED.

"I just discovered that I have a congenital heart defect," she said. "I have had two open heart surgeries in the last year and will have another soon. If they wouldn't have found it, I would have died. They wouldn't have been able to reverse it."

With the donation of the device, there are pads for both adults and children. It comes with a pair of scissors to cut the clothing off the patient, a sign for the front door and a case in which to store the defibrillator. The school nurse will provide training for the school staff.

The Tender Heartbeats secretary said today's advances are making is possible for better outcomes.

"Technology is so amazing now," Hiles said. "Kids are living longer. Kids who are getting heart transplants -- in the 1980s they wouldn't have lived. Life is happening for them now."

One in 100 babies is born with some type of heart defect, according to the American Heart Association.

"There are many children attending elementary schools that have gone undiagnosed, but live with a ticking time bomb," she said. "That is why Tender Heartbeats is passionate about this cause, as protection is not only there for the diagnosed but the undiagnosed, too. Many people ask why an elementary school. Many activities that involve the community take place in elementary schools, with both adults and children in attendance, and so that is precisely the reason one needs to be placed."

More information is available at tenderheartbeats.org.

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-- Barbara Christiansen covers news in American Fork ˜ government, schools, residents, business and more.
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