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Garwood unveils first outdoor AED as advocates call for more across state

There is currently no state law to require recreational sports programs not affiliated with schools to have AEDs or personnel trained in CPR.

Matt Trapani and Karina Gerry

Sep 9, 2023, 12:46 AM

Updated 282 days ago


The borough of Garwood unveiled its first outdoor and waterproof automated external defibrillator (AED).
Donna Brown was on hand for the ceremony to unveil the device. Her grandson, Elijah Brown Garcia, died earlier this year at the age of 12. The boy collapsed at football practice in Newark in February. There weren't any defibrillators on the field and none of the coaches were trained in CPR.
"That's the sad part that I have to deal with because there were no other steps, no CPR, no AED. I will never know if his life would have been spared,” says Brown.
There is currently no state law to require recreational sports programs not affiliated with schools to have AEDs or personnel trained in CPR. That's why Friday’s unveiling at the Garwood Sports and Recreation Complex meant so much to Brown.
"Words do not save lives, it's action that saves lives, so I appreciate Garwood for taking that step and making that word action come to life by putting this AED machine in the field,” she says.
The leading cause of death in young student-athletes is sudden cardiac arrest, according to The American Academy of Pediatrics. The Mayo Health System also reports that about 1 in 50,000 to 1 in 80,000 young athletes die of sudden cardiac death each year.
"So, when we talk about protection, of young athletes - health and safety of our athletes - this has to be near the top if not at the top of the list,” says Dr. Matthew Martinez, of Morristown Medical Center.
Schools in New Jersey are required to have AEDs on campus, but often they are inside the building, far away from sports fields.
"When you're talking about keeping players safe, an AED, learning hands-only CPR, and then having a plan. It’s not enough having an AED in your car a half a mile away. It’s got to be on the field,” Martinez says. “You really only have just a few minutes to access that AED before the benefit of debilitation goes down."
The importance of having AED devices readily available isn't only for student-athletes. Jill Pall, who advocated for Garwood to put in the outdoor AED machine, is a cardiac arrest survivor herself.
"Mine was at a park. It was a Friday afternoon, and it was in the park and there was no AED there,” Pall says. “This being outside of this park would have been a game changer and I probably wouldn't have been touch and go for the four days I was touch and go for."
Multiple bills are being pushed forward in the state to require local recreation departments and youth-serving organizations to have defibrillators for athletic events.
"I think we're going to see a lot more parents and adults and coaches and all wanting this it's only for protection, once we get back into session it has to be a priority in order to protect our children,” says state Assemblywoman Carol Murphy.

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