Mom's mission: get defibrillators, save students' lives

Mom's mission: get defibrillators, save students' lives »Play Video
Automated External Defibrillator
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — It was the fourth time that Corrine Ruiz would be addressing the Kern High School District Board of Trustees to talk about an issue very close to her heart.

Ruiz has been on a mission, trying to convince schools in Kern County to have a defibrillator, or AED (Automated External Defibrillator), on all campuses.

"I have asked for your approval to allow schools to accept donated AEDs, and nothing has been done," said Ruiz as she addressed the school board Monday night.

A defibrillator is a device that helps to increase the chance of survival during sudden cardiac arrest.

Ruiz's daughter, Olivia Corrine Hoff, died from sudden cardiac arrest when she was just 14 years old. Since then, Ruiz has educated herself on the subject and learned that having quick access to an AED can make all the difference in saving a person's life when suffering sudden cardiac arrest.

Monday evening, Ruiz and others again went before the Kern High School Board of Trustees pleading that the district needs to adopt a policy to have AEDs on all campuses.

They cited a recent case that happened in November, when Centennial High School student Caleb Hannink suffered sudden cardiac arrest while on campus. Hannink died, and Centennial had no AED on campus.

Ruiz said school boards are reluctant to adopt AEDs, because of their cost, around $2,000 each, and because school districts are afraid of being held liable if something goes wrong.

Ruiz argued a school district is more liable if a student suffers a sudden cardiac arrest and no AED is available that could save their life. And, Ruiz claims the California Samaritan Act protects school districts from liability. The law basically states that if a person acts in good faith to help save a person, that person cannot be sued.

AEDs have proved to save lives in schools. On Dec. 6, at Kent Meridian School in Washington, a school officer used an AED on a student who collapsed in a hallway. The officer is credited with saving the student's life.

"For every second that passes, defibrillation without a shock to the heart, the chances of survival decrease 7 to 10 percent," said Ruiz.

Kern High School District board member Chad Vegas was apparently swayed by Ruiz' fourth presentation. He acknowledged it was time the school board either approve or deny her request to have AEDs on all campuses.

Vegas asked that district staff present information about any concerns it might have with such a policy. The matter is set to come before the board at its meeting in February and then to a vote in March.

Ruiz said her organization, the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association, Bakersfield chapter, would help in providing comprehensive training on AED use.