Defibrillators Remain Uninstalled at Modesto Schools

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Parents have been pushing schools around the nation to purchase automated external defibrillators, also known as AEDs, for their kids. The devices can shock a heart into beating again after experiencing a heart problem.

Seven months ago, the Modesto City Schools District purchased 59 of these defibrillators. Since then, they haven't been in use -- a concern for one grieving Stanislaus County father.

In bright letters and pictures, Andy Vazquez's presence can be seen and felt everywhere in his family's home. His place at the dinner table still set and the pain his father, Alberto, lives with still raw.

“Every single day, I've been crying for my son, every single day,” Vazquez said.

Andy, 16, was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect when he was born. Last May, his family said he collapsed during gym glass at Gregori High School in Modesto and died.

His father believes Andy could have been saved by an AED.

“I promised my son that as long as I will be alive nothing will happen to him and I failed to (sic) my son,” Vazquez told FOX40.

Since Andy's death, Vasquez has joined other parents and has asked the Modesto City Schools District to purchase the devices. In August 2015, the school district, thanks to increased funding, bought nearly five dozen.

District spokesperson Becky Fortuna said it may be many more months before they're used.

“It’s important for us to provide safe environments for our students,” Fortuna said.

Fortuna said there are a few steps the district must legally take.

“The first is just finding an organization that will help us with our legal compliance issues for the maintenance of the devices,” she said.

The second is installing the AED's. They will most likely be placed near the main office, cafeterias or gyms at every school. She further explained that each elementary school will get one AED, two will go to junior high schools, and three at each of their high schools.

The third step is training school staff on how to use them.

The training, which Brian Haverdink a Modesto Cardiology nurse practitioner said, can be easy.

"They do exactly what they’re programmed to do,” Haverdink said. “If it’s one of those two rhythms, the AED will tell you that it’s a shockable rhythm and to push the shock button.”

An AED will guide just about anyone step-by-step on how to use them. If used properly, Haverdink says, the device can increase survival by up to 95-percent.

“The quicker you can get an AED to a pulseless victim at the site, the quicker it will work," he told FOX40.

One compelling example went viral. A teen girl in Atlanta collapsed during a volleyball game. She was revived with an AED.

"I want to see them at the school. I don’t want to see them sitting in the storage or waiting for another year. They already bought them I don’t know why they sit in the storage,” Vazquez said.

The school district said the defibrillators should be installed and staff will be trained by the next school year.

Vazquez said when they're installed and if they end up saving a life, that hope alone gives him some peace in Andy's passing.

“If my son’s experience… he had to die to save any other kids, that will be worth it,” he said.

We called about a dozen schools and only two school districts have AED’s at all of their campuses. There is also a push from the UC Davis Children’s Hospital to install AED’s in Sacramento classrooms through an effort called Project Adam.

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