Saturday, November 12, 2011

Athlete of the Week: Because Minutes Count in Emergencies

A teen who solicits corporate contributions for defibrillators got one in the hands of Northborough's youth hockey coaches.
By Charlene Arsenault and Mary MacDonald

At 14, Sean Burns is too young to be a professional salesman. But he has the elevator pitch down when it comes to defibrillators, and why they're critically important.

Now, the coaches at Algonquin have one in their hands, too.

In fewer than 10 seconds, he can make a case for why hockey coaches should have Automatic External Defibrillators (AED) at every practice, as well as the games. The machines can restart a heart that has stopped, when seconds count.

"My goal is to make sure every coach has one," Burns said. "It doesn't have to happen in a game. It can happen in a scrimmage."

Burns, a student at Middle School East this year, played hockey for its team. He was motivated to start collecting funds for defibrillators by the experience of Tyler Symes, a student who, while playing hockey for Mil ford High School, was struck in the chest by a puck and went into cardiac arrest. Because the high school trainer had an AED, she and other responders were able to get his heart started again.

"Not all hockey programs are fortunate enough to have defibrillators and my goal is to change that," Burns wrote, in a letter he crafted to solicit donations. With his solicitation letter, he contacted area athletic directors, such as Fran Whitten at Algonquin Regional High School, and "received an overwhelming response."

"I created a fundraising letter and sent it to everyone that I ever skated with, for, or against," said Burns.

Burns received a reply from Ken Calabro, the president of the Starhawks Youth Hockey Association, who was willing to make a donation from his program because the The Starhawks is the youth hockey program that feeds Algonquin Regional High School. He then contacted Whitten to let him know he was able to line up a donation for Algonquin, and ordered the AED. 

"It is amazing how conscientious kids (and people) can be in their quest to help others," said Scott Ellison, coach of the Northborough team. "Sean Burns is a bright light in this world. We are lucky to have this gift of the AED."

So far, he has been able to set up nine donations to the Milford Middle School, Algonquin Regional, Marlboro HS, Milford Youth Football, Hopkinton HS, Medway HS, and Millbury HS. His next donation will go to Northborough High School when he finds a sponsor.

Burns has an agreement with Zoll Medical, of Chelmsford, for the Zoll AED Plus, which has an automated voice that helps the responder administer treatment. The price for Burn's program -- Hearts4Hockey -- is $1,232.50, a discount compared to the normal unit price.

The company spokeswoman, contacted this week, said other manufacturers produce AEDs, but Zoll is the only one that has a recorded voice t hat helps guide people through the process, including chest compressions for cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

"When someone goes into sudden cardiac arrest, every second counts," said Diane Egan, spokeswoman for Zoll Medical.

State law does not require AEDs in schools. And the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association, which governs high school sports, only requires qualified medical personnel at hockey and football games. The reasons why AEDs are not more universally required are because of the expense and training requirements for coaches, said Paul Wetzel, a spokesman for the MIAA.

"Anytime we talk about it, somone brings up these issues," he said.

Burns, who has played hockey for nine years, wants hockey coaches to have the devices for "peace of mind." Having them in the building isn't enough, he said.

Minutes count, he said.
You Tube
PO Box 767
Northport, NY 11768
Phone: 631-754-1091