‘Janet’s Law’ To Protect Child Athletes From Sudden Cardiac Arrest Clears Budget Committee

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TRENTON – Bipartisan legislation sponsored by state senators Joseph F. Vitale and Robert Singer that would require schools, recreational departments and youth camps to have automated external defibrillators (AED) for youth athletic events was approved Monday by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. The bill is an attempt to reduce the number of youth athletes who die from sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) – a condition where the heart’s electrical system malfunctions and stops pumping blood to the rest of the body, often without any visible symptoms.

“Cardiac arrest is not something that only affects adults, but is also prevalent in children, and can strike without much warning. This is especially true for student athletes, who are two to three times more likely than their non-athlete counterparts to die from this silent killer,” said Vitale (D-Middlesex). “By simply having an automated external defibrillator available at sporting events and practices, we can save many of these children’s lives.”

The bill, S-157, would require that both public and nonpublic kindergarten through twelfth grade schools have an AED available within reasonable proximity of the athletic field or gym where school-sponsored events and team practices take place and that an on-site coach or other staff member is trained in CPR and in the use of use an AED. All municipal or county recreation departments, nonprofit youth-serving organizations and youth camps must also have an AED accessible to athletic events and practices with at least one umpire, coach, counselor or staff member trained in CPR and use of an AED. A state-certified emergency services provider or other first responder could fulfill this requirement.

“AEDs are now affordable, user-friendly and necessary,” said Singer (R-Monmouth, Ocean.) “For between $1,500 and $2,000, schools will be prepared to save students lives.”

Additionally, any public schools with grades six through 12 would be required to provide CPR training as part of their curriculum and high school students would be required to learn how to use an AED.

The bill would give immunity from civil liability to school districts and their employees, recreation departments and youth-serving organizations, and youth camps and their employees for use of an AED.

“Nearly 7,000 children die each year from cardiac arrest, many of whom could be saved if there had been an AED close at hand. Even worse is that many schools have these life-saving devices available during the school day, but lock them in a closet or nurses office after hours when athletic practices and games occur. With this legislation, we can ensure that schools, recreation centers and camps have the necessary equipment and the staff training to save a child’s life,” said Vitale.

“Janet’s Law” was named for Janet Zilinski, an eleven-year-old Warren, New Jersey girl who in 2006 went into sudden cardiac arrest during cheerleading practice. A nurse on site administered CPR and she was rushed to a nearby hospital where she eventually passed away.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, if a heart in sudden cardiac arrest is defibrillated within the first minute, there is a 90 percent chance that the patient will survive. Survival rates decrease 10 percent for every minute a person in SCA waits to be defibrillated. Early defibrillation is the most critical step for survival for someone experiencing SCA.

An automated external defibrillator is a portable device that is used to restore heart rhythms to patients in cardiac arrest. It automatically analyzes the heart rhythm of the patient and advises the user whether or not a shock is needed to return the patient to a normal heart beat.

The bill now heads to the full Senate.

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