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High Schools Closer to Having Defibrillators on Campuses

Cathy Rucker, widow of fallen Novato firefighter, pushed hard for seven years to get AEDs installed.

Cathy Rucker knew the installation of defibrillators on local high school campuses was not high on the priority list for the . Not with all the contentious issues over the past year such as the , the investigation into new for each school and the ongoing with all school districts.

The widow of persisted through the years, even during the time when she trained to become an emergency medical technician. She spoke at school board meetings and any safety and emergency preparedness meeting she could find.

“I was a broken record,” she said. “But it wasn’t just me. There were six or eight people who made comments in December (at a school board meeting). The public spoke up, and they listened.”

The school district is soon to install seven new defibrillators, known as automated external defibrillators or AEDs, at Novato’s high schools. The campus of will get four, one for each gymnasium and one for the football stadium; the fourth will replace one that has been in the administrative offices for several years.

will get one in its main gym, one near the football field and one in the main office.

An AED is a portable first-aid device that can shock a person’s heart back to life.

“I’ve been waiting so long for this,” Rucker said. “It’s been seven years. … With the change in superintendents, this must have been the last thing on their minds.  …  I’m just happy it’s actually happening.”

The units cost about $1,400 apiece. The bill was picked up by the Novato Fire Foundation, including storage cabinets to go with the AEDs.

Rucker, 43, is a former chemist with the U.S. Department of Justice. She did that job from 1988 until her husband died in a wildland fire near San Diego in 2003. She went to Santa Rosa Junior College to study fire technology and became a certified EMT in 2005. Now she is in her sixth week of law school at Golden Gate University in San Francisco.

The school trustees unanimously approved the AED installation at the Dec. 14, 2010  meeting, but it was until earlier this month when representatives of the district’s facility and maintenance team and Novato Fire District Battalion Chief Ted Peterson, the district’s chief of medical services, told the board they were ready to move forward with the installation.

Peterson said the fire district is just waiting to hear about dates to train some of the teachers on how to use the defibrillators. Once that’s set up and completed, the district will give the units to the schools along with storage cabinets.

Mark Silva, the school district's director of maintenance, operations and transportation, said administrators are getting their lists together of the people who will be trained. He said the units can be placed on the campuses as soon as the training is completed.

Rucker said it’s just a coincidence that her daughter is attending Novato High now, where four AEDs will be located.

“I’m overjoyed. It’s good for the community,” she said. “It’s for the entire population. Statistics show you that on any given day 20 percent of our population is on school campuses — students, staff members, visitors, spectators at games, everyone. Now we can provide the same standard of care that people get in so many other places.”

Peterson credited Rucker for sticking to the issue.

“Cathy’s persistence is what pushed this noble cause forward,” he said.

Brant September 20, 2011 at 05:06 PM
Re your survey question, it would be interesting to know the incidence of cardio events on high school campuses.
Robert J. Cleek September 20, 2011 at 05:26 PM
If they are still serving pizza and mac and cheese in the cafeterias, I'd expect they'd be on the increase!
Nara Caligiuri September 20, 2011 at 09:01 PM
Cathy is amazing! Lives might truly be saved by all of her noble efforts. Thank you Cathy!!!
Catherine Rucker September 20, 2011 at 09:11 PM
California Education Code sections 49430 and 49431 specify which types of foods may be sold on school campuses. There is an exception to sell pizza, if it is a part of a meal. And by the way, clogged coronary arteries are one way that sudden cardiac arrests are caused. However, there are many other possible reasons why, such as other undiagnosed cardiac conditions (e.g. Long QT syndrome and Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy).
Catherine Rucker September 20, 2011 at 09:13 PM
Thank you! And now all of us parents will know that there are staff members in place who have been trained in CPR with AED. The State of California requires all new teachers to obtain CPR training before they can receive a teaching credential. However, when the certificate expires after two years, then the teachers are not required to renew the training.
Lynne Wasley September 20, 2011 at 09:21 PM
Thank you Cathy!! Your efforts are so appreciated!

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