Backpack on bench can save lives

NEW YORK - Automated external defibrillators, or AEDs, are now required at schools and athletic events in 14 states. 

The devices are designed to bring a heart back into rhythm after sudden cardiac arrest, a condition where the heart is just quivering and not pumping blood. 

A quick-thinking coach and the backpack on her bench helped save the life of a New Jersey teen.

Lynette Messina, head coach of the Garfield High School Boilermakers, remembers a scary moment on the first day of after-school practices last fall involving freshman Gabriela Koziol.

"They were doing a run, and when they got to the other side, Gabby collapsed," Messina said. 

"I just remember hearing the goalie scream after I fell," Koziol said.

Messina and her assistant coach were on the other end of the field.

"I had him run back to grab the AED, I started CPR and he called 911," Messina said. 

In all her years of coaching, Messina always had the AED within quick reach, as mandated by New Jersey law, but never had to pull it out in a life or death situation.

The device "talks" users through the delivery of a shock to the heart. The AED applied only one shock to Koziol's heart.

"With the application of the shock, it put the heart back into normal rhythm, which restored normal output of the heart and normal perfusion and Gabby woke up almost immediately," said Dr. Barry Love, of Children's Heart Center at Mount Sinai Kravis Children's Hospital.

Love implanted a tiny defibrillator inside the teen to help start her heart if it arrested again. 

"I would say it's like her having her own guardian angel," Love said.

"If I could get back on the field, I would really love to. I'd just want to play goalie again," Koziol said.

In addition to the 14 states that mandate the AEDs at schools, there are now 38 states requiring students to learn how to perform CPR. 

Love said Gabby will need to be evaluated to determine if she will be cleared to play soccer again next season.

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