Wednesday, November 2, 2005

Coincidence? I Don't Think So

By John Gray - 11/02/2005

I don't believe in coincidences. Not really.
I think the world turns in strange ways that put us in the path of certain people at certain times.

Nowhere was this more evident than two weeks ago. At Fox 23 News, I co-host a show called In Focus, which airs Sunday mornings. A producer lines up my guests, and from week to week I have no idea who is coming through the door or what they want to talk about.

My guest recently was a man named Jim King. Last November, Jim was playing pick-up basketball with some friends at a local school gymnasium when he suffered a massive heart attack. In a matter of seconds, he was dead on the floor. They performed CPR and then went looking for help. The school janitor, a guy named Joe Wiley, had just been trained on a new machine the school purchased, called an AED. That stands for "automated external defibrillator."

It's a machine that sends an electrical charge into someone whose heart has stopped and gets them breathing again. A one-second jolt can bring a person back from the dead. Mr. Wiley zapped Jim King, and next thing you know, he was looking up at his teammates wondering what all the fuss was about.

As impressed as I was with Mr. Wiley, I am even more impressed with the machine itself. It's nothing like the ones we saw on hospital TV shows growing up. No big metal paddles that have to be hand-held. This machine, honest to God, an 8-year-old could operate. Not only are there only three simple steps, but the machine talks you through it. If you can make coffee, you can operate the AED and save a life.

Jim was very lucky that he happened to drop dead in a school. Three years ago, the state Legislature passed a law requiring every high school in New York to have one of these machines. They only cost $2,500. I asked Jim about the origins of the law, and he said it was passed in memory of a young athlete whose heart stopped during a lacrosse game back in 2000.

The next day, I attended a fund-raiser for Fear Park in Troy. At the event, a woman approached me with a brochure in her hand. She said, "Mr. Gray, my name is Sandy, and this is a picture of my grandson Louis. Can you help me keep other children like him from dying?"

She went on to tell me that her grandson, Louis Acompora, was playing lacrosse on March 25, 2000, when he was hit in the chest by a ball. His heart stopped, and they could not revive him because no one had an AED. She told me his family lobbied hard, and in 2003 a law was passed requiring them in high schools.

Yes, it was the same boy I just heard about. Coincidence? I don't think so either.

Sandy, along with Jim King, wonders why we don't have these life-saving machines everywhere - malls, apartment buildings, anyplace lots of people live or gather. Our legislature got it right requiring them in schools. Now they need to go much farther. Surely $2,500 is a small price to pay to save even one life. If they want to charge me a nickel more in my taxes that's fine. Money well spent, I say.

John Gray is co-anchor of Fox 23 News. His column runs every Wednesday
©The Record 2005
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