School science fair project spurs purchase of ball field AEDs

In Upper Makefield Township, Pennsylvania, the community baseball and softball league has launched a heart-safety initiative that includes an important investment in automated external defibrillators (AEDs) for their play fields.

Cardiac Science Powerheart AEDs will be installed this week at Sol Feinstone Complex and Lookout Park by Upper Makefield Baseball and Softball. Coaches are being trained in CPR and AED use. Parents are getting materials on chest protectors, sudden cardiac arrest risk, CPR, and AED use.

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Andrew Gruebel, 12, and his mother Dr. Janet Lioy show how an AED works at the Upper Makefield Youth Baseball field. They are educating the public on the role the AED plays in preventing sudden cardiac arrest. (Photo: Kim Weimer/staff photographer Bucks County Courier Times)

The story behind the ball field AEDs in Upper Makefield is an intriguing one. It involves a 12-year-old named Andrew Greubel who pitches for both a Catholic Youth Organization team and the community youth league.

A Bucks County Courier Times articledescribes how Andrew did a science fair project on heart safety in the local softball and baseball community. He wanted to find out how much the adults involved in youth sports know about heart safety.

In the course of his research, Andrew and his mother, a physician, made some disturbing discoveries. The AED that was supposed to be at the CYO league’s play field had disappeared. The Upper Makefield playfields had no AEDs at all. The CYO league had trained its coaches five years earlier, but newer coaches, including Andrew’s father, had no AED training.

The paper reports that Andrew got an A on his project, and the community got moving.

Upper Makefield league had previously discussed getting AEDs, according to the newspaper article. Andrew’s project spurred them to make the purchase, as did their awareness of the effects that AEDs (or lack of them) have made in neighboring communities. The league’s AED webpage notes:

  • A Warminster coach is saved on the baseball field early in the 2010 season, and a George School coach is saved on the baseball field less than a month later.
  • An Upper Makefield player was struck by a baseball in the chest a few weeks after that, luckily avoiding very serious implications.
  • A father throwing batting practice to his son in Holland had a heart attack and died as his son and teammates watched only a few weeks after that.

The program’s Safety page includes a Powerpoint presentation for parents to download, and this assurance:

Upper Makefield Youth Baseball and Softball is committed to providing a safe environment for its players, coaches, and families. As such, AEDs will soon be found at each baseball complex, coaches will soon be provided with training — and this site provides information that all associated with UMYBL should refer to frequently. It can mean a child’s life.

Pennsylvania AED law has created voluntary school AED programs that provide funding for purchase of the devices. There is currently school AED legislation in Pennsylvania (House Bill 1307) that includes a provision that would require public and private schools to have at least one AED on the premises at all times and, in cooperation with the state’s interscholastic sports agency, make an AED and a AED-trained staff person or a first responder available during sports events on school property.

For more information on Eastern Pennsylvania AEDs, please contact Cardiac Science AED expert Chip Miller.