OPINION: Starting The School Year Off Safely

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As the beginning of the school year quickly approaches, it’s vital to make sure that our children are safe as they put on their backpacks and break out the notebooks.

In late June, the Legislature passed Janet’s Law nearly unanimously. This law, named for 11 year old Janet Zilinski who died of a sudden cardiac arrest on August 10, 2006 during cheerleading practice, would require schools to have life-saving automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in an accessible location for athletic events, require certain personnel to be trained in CPR and AED use and require each school to develop an action plan for a sudden cardiac emergency. This was a major victory for students throughout the Garden State as well as for teachers, coaches, parents and others who spend any time in schools. However, Governor Christie has yet to sign the bill into law.

Cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death in New Jersey and across the nation. Cardiac arrest can strike people of all ages-usually without warning. CPR and defibrillation within the first few minutes are the only means of saving a cardiac arrest victim. Although none of us would ever like to think of an emergency happening to our children at school, it’s important that our education system be prepared for the unimaginable.

Soon enough, summer will end, the days will grow cooler and the kids will head back to school. The signing of Janet’s Law would be a perfect way to start off the year and show that New Jersey is serious about protecting our children from cardiac arrest.

Dr. Mario E. Pozo Vanegas
American Heart Association Board Member
Director of Pre-Hospital Medicine Program, Hudson County Community College
Education Coordinator of Emergency Medical Services at Jersey City Medical Center


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