RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — About a month after Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest during a regular season game against the Cincinnati Bengals, the Senate of Virginia has passed a bill that would require Automated External Defibrillator (AED) machines in all of the Commonwealth’s schools.
SB 1453 was introduced by Sen. Jeremy McPike, who represents Virginia’s 29th Senate district, in response to Hamlin’s medical emergency, which took place on Jan. 2 and put a spotlight on the importance of quick response and accessibility to AED machines.
Betsy Looney, a school nurse, is often the first person at the scene when a medical crisis happens at school. She still remembers when her friend’s daughter, Danica Canfield, died at school after going into sudden cardiac arrest about 20 years ago.
“The ambulance on call took 20 minutes to get here, and Danica died,” said Looney. “We found out that she had a rhythm that could have been saved with an AED.”
Currently, Virginia law just requires that all students and teachers know first aid, CPR and how to use an AED machine.
“But we don’t have the key ingredient, which is to actually have an AED on site that could be absolutely lifesaving,” said Looney.
According to McPike, the main obstacle is funding. Because of this, $400,000 has been included in the state budget for AED machines, which come with instructions so that almost anyone can use it to analyze a heart’s rhythm and shock it back to the proper beat.
Some school districts in the Richmond area, including Henrico and Hanover, already have requirements for at least one AED machine at each school.
The bill has to be approved by the House of Delegates before it goes to Governor Glenn Youngkin’s desk for ratification.