An electric shock from an automated external defibrillator could have restarted Andrew Cohn’s heart, which stopped after the 15-year-old collided with another player at a 2010 baseball game.
He died of sudden cardiac arrest.
His parents, Harold and Becky Cohn of St. Marys, Ga., only found out later that a defibrillator — commonly called an AED — had been nearby. But it was locked up inside a school adjacent to the ball field.
That prompted them to expand the mission of the AED Alliance, which they had founded to help make the devices more accessible to the public. Their new initiative, the Borrow an AED Program, comes to Northeast Florida Thursday.
Thirteen of the devices will be distributed to health care-related agencies in five counties, where they can be borrowed for free by youth sports teams, church or Scouting groups and anyone else with CPR certification.
“An AED was locked up in the school next to where Andrew died. We don’t want to come across as bitter, but they need to be mobilized,” said Harold Cohn.
“Our ultimate goal is to gain traction with this ... to place at least one in the 3,140 counties nationwide,” he said. “We are willing to take the lead.”
An AED analyzes heart rhythm and prompts a user to deliver a shock when necessary, in conjunction with CPR. The device provides clear audio and visual cues telling users what to do and coaches them through CPR, according to the alliance website.
The Jacksonville Sports Medicine Program coordinated the new Northeast Florida AEDs, which were funded by the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation and the Jaguars Foundation.
The devices will be available for borrowing from Heartland rehabilitation centers on Amelia Island and in Jacksonville’s Northside and Middleburg; Preferred Physical Therapy in Orange Park; Baker County EMS; and Cora Rehabilitation, Progressive Step Physical Therapy, Select Physical Therapy and Atlantic Coast Physical Therapy, all in Jacksonville.
Another four devices have already been picked up by St. Johns County Fire Rescue.
Selecting the appropriate locations was key, said Robert Sefcik, executive director of Jacksonville Sports Medicine, who is also chairman of the Florida High School Athletic Association Sports Medicine Advisory Committee and an American Heart Association CPR instructor.
“We were looking for facilities that understand the importance of AEDs and also are closely tied to recreational and competitive young athletes,” he said.
Certified athletic trainers employed by the physical therapy facilities “routinely provide sideline medical services at youth sporting events,” he said. “They are very aware that having AEDs available at these events could mean the difference between life or death should someone suffer a sudden cardiac arrest.”
“These partners will help us get the word out to the community so athletic associations and other organizations serving young athletes will know the AEDs are available and so they will be used,” Sefcik said.
The borrow program has also been established in the Cohns’ home county, Camden, in Georgia, and in communities in California, Pennsylvania and Arizona, Harold Cohn said. The Cohns hope more government agencies, private organizations and nonprofits across the country will follow suit, he said.
Beth Reese Cravey: (904) 359-4109
To donate or get more information, contact Harold and Becky Cohn at the AED Alliance, 124 Point Peter Place, St. Marys, GA. 31558 or go to aedpetitionnow.com.
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