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Foundation to Donate Defibrillators to Ansonia Elementary Schools

By Fred Musante

Ansonia’s Mead and Prendergast elementary schools will soon each receive an AED (automated external defibrillator) courtesy of a private foundation dedicated to spreading the use of the life-saving devices and CPR training.

Azadeh Rezvani, a Bridgeport lawyer and co-founder of the Michael Vincent Sage Dragonheart Foundation, said that the two K-6 Ansonia elementary schools had been approved to receive AEDs from the foundation.

Rezvani said the two AEDs had been ordered, although she did not know when they would arrive. She said a ceremony would be held in Ansonia to present the devices.

That was good news for Mead School Principal Terri Goldson.

Goldson said although most people don’t expect elementary school children to have a medical problem causing cardiac arrest, that doesn’t mean the schools shouldn’t be equipped with AEDs.

He noted that the elementary schools are used as polling places during elections and as meeting spaces for scouts, youth groups, sports leagues, and school activities are often attended by hundreds of parents.

Mead School has about 700 children enrolled for the coming school year.

Goldson applied to the foundation after hearing about it from Mead School reading teacher Susan Madigan.

Rezvani said her husband, Michael Vincent Sage, also a lawyer, died suddenly on Feb. 5, 2010 after going into cardiac arrest due to an undiagnosed heart problem.

He never regained consciousness after he was found in his office at a New London law firm. The firm’s offices were not equipped with an AED, although Rezvani said it is not certain that it wasn’t already too late to revive Michael by the time he was found.

In June 2012, she said she and Michael’s mother, Lauren Rossi of Hamden, formed the foundation in his name, its mission to donate AEDs and promote training in their use and in CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), the measures that could make the difference between life and death in the minutes after a person goes into cardiac arrest.

Rezvani said by the time an ambulance and professional emergency medical personnel arrive it might be too late, because every minute without defibrillation and CPR reduces a person’s chance of survival by 7 percent.

Also, only 8 percent of people who suffer sudden cardiac arrest outside of a hospital survive, but that could change dramatically if there are AEDs available, along with volunteers trained to use them.

Most local ambulance services have offered free training courses on AEDs and emergency CPR in conjunction with the HEARTSafe Community program, which gives municipalities that designation once they have reached a certain level, based on their population, of trained citizens and AEDs placed in businesses and public buildings.

Seymour, Oxford, Ansonia and Shelton are among the 84 Connecticut cities and towns that have received the HEARTSafe Community designation.

“It’s a relatively inexpensive machine that doesn’t take up much space,” said Rezvani of an AED.

She said it is very easy to use. It helps to be trained, but even an untrained person could operate it just by following the instructions on the device, and computerized sensors within it prevent it from being misused.

“We’ve had applications from a fair number of schools, so it’s great,” she added.

The foundation benefited from the support of the Connecticut Athletic Trainers’ Association, which posted a notice on the foundation’s AED donation on its website.

Rezvani said many school sports coaches, youth sports league coaches and school physical education teachers are trained in CPR, because it is a requirement for coaching certification. That has brought the donation program to the attention of many schools across the state, she said.

Goldson said he was trained in CPR years ago when he coached Pop Warner Football, girls’ and boys’ basketball, soccer and softball teams. When he heard about the foundation’s AED donation program he immediately saw the advantage for having one of the devices at Mead School.

“I think it should be mandatory for every school,” he said.