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Student research shows need for increased AEDs

Abbey Clark, a senior health and well-being student from Clarksburg, W.Va., recently visited the West Virginia capitol to present her findings on the availability of automated external defibrillator in classroom buildings at WVU.

Clark’s father, who was in the family’s driveway after returning home by bus in June 2021, had gone into cardiac arrest two years ago, and largely survived due to her sister promptly performing CPR and emergency services administering the AED. Since her father had nearly gone into cardiac arrest on the bus, she and her family led a successful effort to make AEDs standard in all new state public vehicles in West Virginia.

Unfortunately, in early January, her father once again went into cardiac arrest and ultimately passed away on January 21. This close-to-home experience is the primary reason that Clark is advocating so vigorously for AEDs to be accessible on the WVU campus and other public spaces.

Clark investigated all classroom buildings on the Downtown and Evansdale campus to see if AEDs were accessible. Ultimately, she found that not all buildings had AEDs, and that larger buildings had a limited number of AEDs available. She recommended that ideally an AED is accessible on every floor of every building on WVU’s campus.

“The use of an AED is most effective when applied in the first 3 minutes,” she says. “Each minute that passes without an AED applied reduces that person’s chance of survival by seven to 10 percent.”

In addition to scarcity, Clark noted several other issues when it came to AEDs in WVU buildings. Some AEDs were not listed on emergency maps or were listed on the map but not in the spot they were marked on the map. Other AEDs were in spots that were not easy to locate or immediately accessible.

Ultimately, Clark’s solution is a two-step process: increase awareness about the lack of AEDs and the need for them, which she then hopes would lead to obtaining more of these devices on WVU’s campus and throughout public spaces in West Virginia.

Her crusade started by submitting her research abstract for WVU’s Undergraduate Research Day at the capitol. She was originally accepted as an alternate, but soon after getting that news, attention to this issue received national attention after Buffalo Bills defensive back Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest during a Monday night game. Hamlin’s life was saved by the athletic training staff supplying CPR and first responders using an AED. The sobering effect of what Hamlin, the players and spectators witnessed led Clark to contact the leaders of the research day and advocate for the importance of her research in this area. The leaders agreed, and a few days later she was notified that she would be presenting at the capitol.

“I was very excited and privileged to be able to present my information and research,” she says. “I was appreciative that the people I talked to were willing to listen to me, my personal story, and my research. Some indicated that this was a conversation being had in committees and the logistical challenges of making AEDs accessible. Others were shocked at my findings about the lack of AEDs on campus.”

Clark looks to continue to stay in touch with local representatives to keep the conversation and awareness going about the need for and the accessibility of AEDs. 

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