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Cathedral High School becomes first 'Heart Safe School' in Indianapolis

Many schools have AEDs, but not enough people at the school truly know how to use them, according to Riley Hospital for Children.

INDIANAPOLIS — When people go into sudden cardiac arrest outside a hospital, only about 10 percent survive. But quick response CPR using an automatic external defibrillator (AED) can greatly improve those odds. 

Cathedral High School completed a cardiac emergency drill Tuesday morning to become the first “Heart Safe School” in Indianapolis recognized by Riley Hospital for Children and the national organization, Project ADAM.     

"Sudden cardiac arrest is wonderfully an incredibly rare event, but it is still one of the highest risks for our young population in terms of morbidity and mortality,” said Dr. Adam Kean, Riley Hospital for Children pediatric cardiologist. “If an AED is on the scene within a few minutes, then that survival can be increased upwards of threefold." 

Credit: WTHR

Kean has helped bring Project ADAM to Indiana. Schools are not required by law to have AEDs on site. Riley Hospital said many schools have AEDs, but not enough people at the school truly know how to use them.

Cathedral High School has eight AEDs spread throughout their campus buildings, and two more at their baseball and softball fields off-campus.

"Unfortunately, we've had some instances here on campus over the years and some experiences, outcomes have been better than others,” said Cathedral High School athletic trainer Mike Hunker. “Our best outcomes were in situations where we had trained individuals that were able to respond quickly and apply an AED in a timely manner and the victim survived.”

Credit: WTHR
Cathedral High School has eight AEDs spread throughout their campus buildings, and two more at their baseball and softball fields off-campus.

A quick response is critical even before first responders arrive. 

“We try to train ourselves with a sense of urgency, so we don't respond with a sense of panic,” said Hunker. “It allows our faculty, staff, and coaches to feel comfortable responding appropriately."

Cathedral parent Jeff Utzinger advocated for the program at the school. He collapsed while jogging in his neighborhood in the summer of 2017. A neighbor performed CPR for four minutes and a Carmel police officer with an AED in his car saved Jeff’s life.  

“It is very emotional for me,” said Utzinger, observing the cardiac emergency drill. “It took me a while, but I realize I truly am a walking miracle. It’s really comforting and really special for me to know that a staple in the community where my kids go to school - that we're prepared."

Cathedral students also receive CPR and AED training in health class.