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Lee School District receives Heart Safe Schools designation

By Staff | Jun 10, 2021

Mariner High School student Derrick Purdy. PHOTOS PROVIDED

A safety measure that was put into every high school in Lee County in 2012 saved one Mariner High School student’s life last October and earned the district a Heart Safe Schools designation.

“We are so excited the Lee County School District has been given the recognition of Heart Safe Schools for all our schools within the district,” Coordinator of Health Services for the School District Beth Wipf said in a recorded interview. “We partnered with Golisano Children’s Hospital and Lee Health to be able to bring Project ADAM and partner with them so we could provide AEDs in all of our schools.”

An automated external defibrillator (AED) can be used by anyone, regardless of medical training, as a lifesaving measure for someone in cardiac distress.

Mariner High School student Derrick Purdy’s heart stopped during a basketball tournament in Estero last October, which his brother and mother watched from the bleachers. Derrick played the entire first quarter before subbing out to take a quick break. During that break he suddenly had to lean on his teammates as he could not sit up on the bench.

His mother, Kim, rushed to his side as he began to have a seizure. When he stopped breathing, his mother began CPR while other parents found an AED saving his life.

An automated external defibrillator.

“When Derrick had his cardiac arrest he was a healthy, strong, athletic 17-year-old kid,” his mother said in a recorded interview. “Nobody would have expected him to have a cardiac arrest. The fact that when he did have his cardiac arrest there was an AED available … it truly saved his life.”

Derrick said having AEDs in all public places, especially schools, means a lot.

“Cardiac arrest can occur anywhere and AEDs, along with CPR are the top ways to prevent someone dying from a cardiac arrest,” he said in recorded interview.

Due to the AED, Derrick, now 18 years old, stood alongside his parents during the official designation ceremony on June 1, which is the first day of National CPR and AED Awareness Week.

Golisano Children’s Hospital partnered with Project ADAM, a nonprofit organization focusing on prevention training and education to ensure schools and communities are both equipped and trained in prevention of sudden cardiac arrest, to provide the remaining middle and elementary schools with AEDs. The Lee Health Foundation, through the Little Red Wagon Fund for Golisano Children’s Hospital, funded the AEDs.

Child Advocate for Golisano Children’s Hospital Julie Noble said the generous donors of the Little Red Wagon Fund funded all the AEDs in the elementary schools, middle schools, special centers and the district offices.

The partnership has resulted in Golisano awarding 89 Lee County School District schools and the district with a Heart Safe School designation.

With having a Heart Safe School designation, each school has an AED that is accessible from anywhere in the school within two to three minutes, a designated cardiac emergency response team at each school, as well as a written Cardiac Emergency Response Plan that is reviewed annually.