You’d be challenged to find somebody happier about the installation of lifesaving defibrillators on Novato school campuses than Cathy Rucker, the reigning statewide emergency medical technician of the year.
Rucker, widow of fallen firefighter Steve Rucker, became an EMT in 2005 and is now in law school. She has been urging the to install automated external defibrillators on school campuses for years, and the district just announced last week that installation and training has been completed at , and the for eight AED units.
“Obviously, this is a moment that I have been waiting for — ever since I became an EMT in December 2005,” she said. “When my daughter, Kerstin, hopped into the car after school and told me that there were AED units in the gymnasiums at Novato High, then I knew that my goal had been realized.”
NUSD trustees approved the installation and training at a December 2010 board meeting and it took a year of coordination and planning to get the job done. NUSD said Mark Silva, the district’s director of maintenance, operations and transportation, worked closely with fire Battalion Chief Ted Peterson and firefighter Paul Tiffany of the Novato Fire District along with the VIA Foundation to acquire AEDs, find cabinets in which to house the units and then train staff members at each campus. Also, Novato Fire’s Sandy Wargo coordinated AED and CPR training to students in PE classes.
The fire district donated eight AEDs and five cabinets, and the VIA Foundation donated three AED cabinets for installation at the two high school campuses. The fire district provided all the training for school staff members.
NUSD board President Cindi Clinton said she was pleased to see the completion of the project and thankful for the donations of time and equipment.
“This has been a true community collaboration,” she said in a district statement.
Novato High has four AED units — one in the office, one in each of two gyms and one at the football field in the announcer's booth. San Marin has three AED units — one in the office, one in the gym and one at the football field. The Hill Educational Center site has one AED unit.
Rucker said having the AEDs on campuses is important not only for students and staff but any person who visits one of the high schools or at the Hill campus.
“Kerstin was very excited to have received the training, and I could tell that she felt empowered,” she said of her daughter. “Who knows? Maybe someday one of the students will save the life of a school staff member with CPR and the use of an AED unit.”
Rucker said she would encourage the school district to focus efforts on installing an AED at the district office and at San Jose and Sinaloa middle schools. She also supports state Senate Bill 63, which would encourage each high school to have at least one AED on campus.
Rucker likes to share this link to a story about a 12-year-old girl in the Dallas area who suffered a sudden cardiac arrest while at school and whose life was saved by teachers who provided CPR and used the school's AED unit. The series of events was captured on the school's surveillance camera.
That story “shows that sudden cardiac arrests can occur in students at younger ages as well,” Rucker said.