Defibrillators Help Kids Survive Cardiac Arrest

Thanks to popular TV shows like "Grey's Anatomy," "Scrubs" and "ER," most people know defibrillators save lives. During a cardiac event, bystanders can use a defibrillator to send electric current to the heart, which may restore normal heartbeat.

While heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., most people don't know that sudden cardiac arrest affects people of all ages—even children and teenagers. Up to 7,000 children every year experience potentially life-threatening cardiac events.

When Megan Jeffris, a certified athletic trainer at MCMC, realized the local high schools she works with don't have defibrillators available, she knew she had to find a way to provide the expensive lifesaving equipment.

Also known as AEDs, defibrillators can cost more than $1,000 each.

Thanks to the Mid-Columbia Health Foundation, a nonprofit that provides financial support to MCMC and the Gorge community, every certified athletic trainer at MCMC now has an AED available at community events and high school sports practices and games.

Keeping Kids Safe

As part of its mission to spread health and wellness throughout the community, MCMC provides free athletic training services to eight local high schools. Athletic trainers like Jeffris offer free injury prevention, triage and rehabilitation services at The Dalles High School, Lyle High School, Sherman County and more.

MCMC staff also provides medical services and emergency planning for local athletic events like the Klickitat Trail Marathon and Aluminum Man Triathlon.

A lifelong sports lover, Jeffris loves getting kids back on the field. She moved to The Dalles in December 2017 and today, through her employment with MCMC, works with Horizon Christian School and Columbia High School students.

"I am at the schools almost every single day," she said. "I'm at games and practices and sometimes during the day for paperwork. I keep kids safe."

Creating a supportive environment for student athletes is a big part of Jeffris’ job. She checks in with the athletes regularly, developing relationships so even the most stoic teens feel comfortable telling her when they're hurt.

"We see them getting hit all the time," Jeffris said. "Go up to that kid, say 'Hey, how are you doing?' He says, 'Yeah, I'm fine.' You say, 'Tell me when you're not.' Being that constant source of encouragement, sticking around. Being a consistent person in their life works wonders.”

Kids get hurt every day, but it's mostly minor injuries. Approximately twice a week she sees athletes with injuries severe enough that they miss a few days of practice.

"It's an ever-rotating list of injured athletes," Jeffris said. "With my help, or coordinating care with a doctor or physical therapist, they're back at practice the next week."

There are occasional catastrophic injuries, like ACL tears and shoulder injuries. But those are few and far between, partly thanks to MCMC's free summer injury-prevention camps. The camps help young athletes stay in shape so their bodies are ready to take on sports activities in the fall.

Cardiac arrest is a rare but potentially deadly possibility.