Cupertino Courier

Racing Hearts can make a difference between life, death

- By Joe Simitian

Racing Hearts is a lifesaver. In just 10 years, they've placed more than 1,000 automated external defibrilla­tors (AEDS) within Santa Clara County, and they've made Santa Clara County the first county in California to have defibrilla­tors in virtually all public schools. It's an outstandin­g example of the good that nonprofits and government can do when we work hand in hand.

And what a journey it's been. Two decades ago, Stephanie Martinson was out climbing Yosemite's Half Dome when she suffered an aborted sudden cardiac arrest. She was just 23 years old.

Stephanie was not the first young adult, and she won't be the last, to experience sudden cardiac arrest. We hear too many stories of otherwise healthy people collapsing suddenly. Maybe it's a student at sports practice, a friend at work or a neighbor at a farmers' market. It can happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere.

Sudden cardiac arrest is not the same as a heart attack, but it's just as dangerous. Instead of a blockage, it's an electrical disturbanc­e that stops the heart beating correctly.

After her ordeal, Stephanie was inspired to do something. In 2012, she founded Racing Hearts with a clear mission: to increase the survival rate of people suffering a sudden cardiac arrest. How would she and her volunteer team get that done? By placing AEDS in easy to access locations throughout the community, and by teaching people how to use them.

An AED is a small but powerful device. It uses electrical pulses to reset the heart, like turning a frozen computer off and on again. “Public access” AED models, like the ones placed through our partnershi­p with Racing Hearts, are easy to use and capable of defibrilla­ting a cardiac patient before the

ambulance arrives.

There are more than 350,000 cases of sudden cardiac arrest each year in the U.S. — 7,000 of them children under age 18 — and nearly 90% are fatal. The survival rate for those experienci­ng this kind of cardiac event is 5%8% when traditiona­l cardiopulm­onary

resuscitat­ion (CPR) is used but increases to 80% with the use of AEDS. Clearly, having AEDS widely available makes a huge difference between life and death.

In 2014, I proposed that Racing Hearts partner with the county's Board of Supervisor­s, the City of Mountain View, El Camino Health and local school districts to place 49 AEDS in public locations throughout Mountain

View, including schools and recreation/community centers.

Following the success of the Mountain View pilot, in 2015 the Board of Supervisor­s allocated $500,000 in matching funds to get even more AEDS out into the community, including county park ranger and sheriff patrol cars in Cupertino and Saratoga along with Los Gatosmonte Sereno police cars. Soon after, Racing Hearts,

the county and El Camino Health collaborat­ed with our local state legislator­s to update California legislatio­n to make it easier to own and maintain AEDS.

By 2018, Santa Clara County was the first county in California to have AEDS in virtually all public schools, spread among elementary, middle and high schools, including those in Cupertino, Saratoga, Los Gatos and Monte Sereno. When

we started our partnershi­p with Racing Hearts, fewer than 10% of our local public schools had access to the equipment.

To have placed more than 1,000 AEDS in Santa Clara County is a triumph, to put it simply. After completing their mission to raise awareness and blanket our county with lifesaving AEDS, Racing Hearts' journey has recently come to a natural close. I'm honored to

have worked with Racing Hearts from day one, and I hope the Racing Hearts story continues to inspire partnershi­ps between nonprofits, local organizati­ons and government.

Thank you, Racing Hearts. You're a lifesaver.

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