Hawaii Medical Service Association is donating 320 automated external defibrillators that help revive the heart in an emergency to 95 public and private high schools with athletic programs.
The so-called AEDs send an electric shock to help restore normal heartbeats during cardiac arrest, which kills an estimated 475,000 Americans each year, according to the American Heart Association.
The Hawaii High School Athletic Association will conduct training on the AED devices, which will be accessible during high school sporting events and practices.
“We know communities take their sports very seriously in Hawaii. We know that at sporting events there’s a lot of tension and stress and excitement so things happen,” said Michael Stollar, president and CEO of HMSA, which is spending about $300,000 on the devices and training materials.
In 2006, the state’s largest health insurer donated an initial set of AEDs to the schools, but many have large campuses and would benefit from multiple devices, he said.
“Some schools need multiple because they’re so big. To run from one end of the campus to the other just isn’t feasible, so they really need them spread out and that’s how you save lives,” Stollar added.
Reid Takano, president of the Hawaii Athletic Trainers Association, said only about 8 percent of people in Hawaii survive cardiac arrests without the help of an AED.
“We’ve lost people because there was no AED present so this is huge as far as increasing student safety statewide,” he said, adding that lawmakers are also considering a legislation to put AEDs in all schools.
Christopher Chun, executive director Hawaii High School Athletic Association, said in recent years there have been at least a couple dozen times when AEDs were used at sporting events and on campus with good results in about three quarters of the cases.
In one case, Kim Imamoto, an athletic trainer at Pearl City High School, was able to help save a freshman football player when he went unconscious after colliding with another child.
“It was really crazy. Honestly if we didn’t have the AED, I don’t know what would have happened,” she said.