ELIZABETH—Student leaders at Benedictine Academy in Elizabeth have met with state Assemblyman Joseph Cryan to gain his support for a bill that would enable untrained “good Samaritans” to use a defibrillator in an emergency situation.
Members of both the Academy’s “JTB Club”, along with representatives of the “JTB Foundation”, spoke with Cryan (D-Union) in late December to ask for his sponsorship of the Assembly bill.
The JTB Foundation was created by the family of John Taylor Babbitt, a 16-year-old Chatham resident who suddenly collapsed and died in 2006 while playing basketball in his Youth Ministry league. It was later determined that Babbitt suffered from an undiagnosed heart condition. A 2003 graduate of St. Patrick’s School in Chatham and a junior at the Pingry School in Martinsville, Babbitt was an athlete who enjoyed playing football, basketball, soccer and baseball.
The JTB Foundation’s current focus is to see that New Jersey’s Public Access Defibrillator Law (N.J.S.A. 2A; 625:62S-23 et seq.) is updated.
“The current law requires that the owner of an AED (automated emergency defibrillator) ensures that only persons holding current certification may use the AED in the event of an emergency,” Benedictine Academy Campus Minster Linda Michalski explained. “Forty-one states have amended their own Good Samaritan Laws. New Jersey is not one of these states,” Michalski noted.
Benedictine Academy student leaders Ariana Taveras and Andrea Mendoza; Michalski; and the school’s Guidance Director, Sister Donna Jo Repetti, OSF; along with John Taylor Babbitt’s mother, JoAnne, and Foundation Board member Marian Joyce, all met with Cryan. They passionately spoke in favor of advancing the amended bill.
“The meeting concluded with Assemblyman Cryan agreeing to sponsor the Assembly bill,” Michalski reported. According to Michalski, Cryan told his visitors, “There is no reason in good faith that this should not be done… it is an opportunity to save a life… important to a legacy (of the people whom we love whose lives have been lost).”
Cryan told the Benedictine Academy/JTB contingent that he would make sponsorship of the bill one his top three priorities in the new year, according to Michalski.
The Benedictine Academy students, and the “JTB Foundation”, feel the law needs to be updated because “the technology has advanced to the point that the use of an AED, according to recent studies, can even be safely used by an untrained sixth grader!” Andrea Mendoza said. “For every minute that an AED is not used on a victim of sudden cardiac arrest,” she pointed out, “that person’s chance of survival goes down by 7-10 percent.”
In the past year, Ariana Taveras added, “there have been five reported deaths of young people in New Jersey because there was no AED available on site. Four years ago, one of our own student’s brothers died from an unexpected cardiac arrest on a school basketball court. No AED was available,” she stated.
Benedictine Academy decided to form the “JTB Club” to work to secure amended legislation to allow wider use of a defibrillator in an emergency. The proposed Assembly bill would release any layperson, trained or untrained, from liability in using an AED and, provide immunity from civil liability for rescuers, acquirers, enablers, owners, and providers of AEDs for acts or omissions in providing emergency help.
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