Last week, the Wilton lacrosse boosters purchased five automated external defibrillators (AEDs) to put at athletic fields in Wilton — two at Allen’s Meadow and one each at Middlebrook, Lilly Field and the Wilton High School football field.
“The Wilton Lacrosse Association has been working on this initiative for over a year,” Wilton Lacrosse Association President John Arrix told The Bulletin. “We felt strongly about having them on the fields.”
Arrix said the AEDs will be on the fields from March 15 until June 15, and the Parks and Recreation Department has agreed to store the units in the off-season.
Shortly after the association purchased the AEDs, Wiltonian Nancy Capelle — founder of Cardiac Companion, volunteer EMT with the Wilton Volunteer Ambulance Corps, and a cardiac arrest and heart attack survivor — made CPR and AED presentations to the Board of Selectmen on April 6 and the Board of Education on April 23.

Sudden cardiac arrest


In her presentation to the Board of Education on April 23, Capelle said some causes of sudden cardiac arrest — when the heart unexpectedly ceases to function and loses its ability to deliver blood to the body — include:

  • Choking, anaphylaxis.

  • Asthma.

  • Cardiomyopathy.

  • Heart infections.

  • Commotio cordis.

  • Electrocution.

  • Drowning.

  • Electrolyte imbalance.


When someone is experiencing cardiac arrest, it is important to not only call 9-1-1, but also to give the individual immediate CPR and use an AED.
According to Parent Heart Watch, an AED is a device “designed to quickly analyze the heart’s rhythm and safely deliver an electrical shock, if needed.”

“As much as first responders try to get to where cardiac arrest is happening in as little time as possible, it’s logistically impossible for us to get there in the first four minutes,” said Capelle.
“The first four minutes are the most critical — the time when intervention needs to occur,” she added.
“Chest compressions need to be started immediately, and that very first shock — if indicated on the AED — needs to take place in those first four minutes for that individual to have the greatest chance of survival.”
A person’s chance for survival decreases by 10% every minute defibrillation is delayed and out-of-hospital cardiac arrests have a 7% survival rate, said Capelle.
“Part of that is because we don’t have enough bystanders who are willing to learn CPR, able to recognize cardiac arrest and willing to get involved,” she said.
“They’re worried they’re going to do something wrong, they’re worried they’re going to get sued, they think maybe the person is just having a seizure or, in some cases, they’re in a facility where there’s no AED accessible and all they can do are compressions.”
While chest compressions are “very important,” said Capelle, “immediate access to that AED is the other critical component that we’re missing.”

Athletes


Capelle said the most common cause of cardiac arrest among young athletes is commotio cordis — a blunt trauma to the area of the chest directly over the heart during a precise moment of the heart’s cycle, leading to sudden cardiac arrest, according to Parent Heart Watch.
“This is often seen in baseball and lacrosse, despite the use of chest and pad protectors,” said Capelle.
Capelle said AEDs should be on every athletic field, and every team that goes to an away game should take one along, because “that is the only way that that shock is going to be delivered in four minutes.”
According to the American Heart Association, about 5,700 cases of sudden cardiac arrest are reported in children each year, making it the leading cause of sudden death in young people.
“AEDs do not cost a million dollars. They range from about $1,000 to $3,000. We’re not talking about something impossible — we are talking about saving lives,” said Capelle.

Schools


Capelle told The Bulletin that Wilton schools are in need of “many more easily accessible AEDs.”
“Currently, Wilton schools only have one or two at the most — this is the minimum required by law,” she said. “However, it is woefully inadequate.”
Many times, these AEDs are locked in an office, said Capelle, and “only a handful of school staff are properly trained in how to use them.”
“With the critical time from onset of cardiac arrest to time of chest compression and delivery of the first shock from the AED being under four minutes, AEDs should be retrievable in less than one minute,” Capelle said.
Not only that, she said, but “all personnel in the area of the cardiac arrest should know how to recognize cardiac arrest and perform chest compressions.”
At the Board of Education meeting, Capelle suggested that Wilton students and staff be trained in CPR, beginning in middle school.
“CPR and AED education ideally should start in very young children,” she told The Bulletin. “The concept that we can and should help people experiencing a cardiac emergency is something that should be taught as early as possible.”
However, Capelle said, children need to be in the middle school years in order to earn CPR and AED certification because they need to have the strength to “properly compress an adult chest to a depth of two inches.”
Capelle said in-school CPR training would improve the safety not only of students but of staff as well.
When EMS is called to Wilton schools, Capelle said, the majority of 9-1-1 calls are for faculty members — not students.
Capelle — who recently trained 10 Middlebrook students in adult, child and infant CPR, AED and choking relief — said children not only have the ability to learn CPR but they want to save lives and are concerned about people’s health and safety, including school faculty and staff members.
“This is not just about the children — it’s about safe working environments for faculty and staff and everyone during and after school hours,” said Capelle.
“I would like to get ahead of this and be proactive and not wait for a tragedy to happen to one of our children or faculty or staff before we take action.”