New Jersey families bonded by tragedies push for AED laws to protect kids

The families have each made it their mission to save the lives of young athletes.

News 12 Staff

Mar 3, 2023, 3:14 AM

Updated 412 days ago

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Two New Jersey families – one grieving the loss of a 12-year-old boy, the other thankful their son is alive – are fighting to make sure all children in the state are protected.
There was an emotional meeting between Bill Maro and Donna Brown on Thursday. They have each made it their mission to save the lives of young athletes.
Donna Brown’s 12-year-old grandson Elijah Brown-Garcia died on Feb. 10. He collapsed while at football practice. There weren’t any defibrillators on the field, and none of the coaches were trained in CPR. The boy died at the hospital.
“Looking at my 12-year-old grandson in a casket and I promised him that I would change this law in his name. I promised that I would do anything possible so it wouldn’t happen to another child,” says Brown.
Maro’s 15-year-old son also collapsed while participating in sports. He suffered from a heart attack during a basketball game in Hillsborough. Parents in the stand jumped in and began performing CPR. A defibrillator restarted his heart on the court.
“My son was lucky enough to be in a gymnasium. I started compressions. A good Samaritan ran over and knew where the AERD machine was. The police were there within two minutes,” Maro says.
There is currently no state law to require recreational sports programs not affiliated with schools to have AEDs or personnel trained in CPR.
“I am very upset that the fact that my grandson was just laying down on the field, on the side. Water was thrown at him. No CPR, no machine. It’s just horrible,” says Brown.
“I can’t express with words how I feel for her…this can’t happen to our children,” says Maro.
The two families are now on a mission to save other children.
“We are making this our mission to make sure AED machines – we know where they are, we know what you have to do to compress the chest,” says Maro.
“There should always be at least two people on hand that know CPR as well,” says Brown.
“And if they don’t know CPR and that AED machine is not in the distance, that game does not take place,” says Maro.
A law that was passed in 2015 with these requirements was vetoed by then-Gov. Chris Christie.
“I don’t care how long it takes – If I have to be in Trenton in one of those committee meetings, I will be,” says Brown.
Brown says she also has a message for parents.
“Don’t put your kid out there if the coaches are not skilled or CPR-certified,” she says.
“I feel that I got lucky. She lost her grandchild – something that should have severely been avoided,” says Maro.
News 12 has learned that state Sen. Holly Schepisi and her staff are working toward a regulation for AED machines to be on every field and sports venue in the state.


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