Access to AEDs Act gets new support as Damar Hamlin steps up to get devices in schools

Bipartisan bill introduced by Florida lawmakers offers grants

ORLANDO, Fla. – The Access to AEDs Act is getting more attention, five years after the Brevard County nonprofit, Who We Play For, began pushing to get it signed into law.

“If it passes, I truly believe this will be one of the most life-saving bills in the history of the United States,” said Shawn Sima, impact director for Who We Play For, after attending the introduction of the newly-named bill in Washington D.C.

House Bill 2370, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Bill Posey, R-FL District 8, and U.S. Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, D-FL District 20, would fund grants for elementary and secondary schools to develop programs promoting automated external defibrillation (AED) and Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) in schools.

The legislation is now getting support from an NFL player who has become a household name.

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“The Access to AEDs Act will help ensure that schools are just as prepared and trained to respond in a time of crisis as those on the sideline of an NFL game,” said Damar Hamlin, player for the Buffalo Bills. “As I was growing up playing football, I don’t recall ever thinking about CPR or knowing where AED was in my school or on an athletic field, but for those of you with children who play sports, I’d imagine your experience was similar. With my coaches on the field and my family in the stands, we didn’t plan what would happen if sudden cardiac arrest happened to me or one of my teammates. On January 2nd, that all changed for me and my entire family.”

Damar Hamlin collapsed and suffered cardiac arrest following a hit during a game against the Cincinnati Bengals in January.

“Unfortunately, a lot of times it takes the community to experience it firsthand to really grasp, you know, what this means and how common and unfortunate it is,” said RJ Black, a member of the nonprofit, Who We Play For.

Hamlin’s life was saved, in part by the use of an AED by fast-acting first responders.

“Seeing Damar Hamlin drop on national TV Monday night Football definitely sparked that national interest and awareness that’s needed,” Ralph Maccarone said. “Having that emergency action plan will definitely be a legacy for our son.”

Maccarone’s son passed away at 15 years old after going into cardiac arrest while warming up for soccer practice at Cocoa Beach High School. Maccarrone said the day his son collapsed, the AED equipment had been locked up. Maccarone had undiagnosed hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a disease in which the heart muscle is thickened, making it more difficult to pump blood and causing him to suddenly go into cardiac arrest.

“We’ve been working on this bill for 5-plus years, have never had the opportunity to get it into committee even,” Maccarone said.

Hopefully, they will be fast-tracking this bill to get it into those committee hearings, out of committee, on to the house floor for a vote.

“There’s so many families that have been affected by this so it shouldn’t be too difficult, but now we’re gonna be looking for co-sponsors throughout the Senate and Congress. We already have 42 co-sponsors in the House and three in the Senate, one of them being Chuck Schumer,” Sima said. “Right now, there’s $25 million earmarked, and once this passes, then schools throughout the nation will be able to reach out to the Department of Health and Human Services for grants to be able to purchase AEDs. Every school is gonna have teachers, principals, nurses, coaches, other kids trained on exactly what to do when somebody goes down.”

Sima’s daughter went into sudden cardiac arrest at 16 years old on Feb. 2, 2016. Today, she’s a mom to a baby girl.

“My daughter fell down with sudden cardiac arrest in front of a guy who’d just learned CPR two weeks before and he saved my daughter’s life,” Sima said. “Heart disease, sudden cardiac arrest is the leading cause of death in the United States and only 10% survive right now and a lot of that is because of lack of education.”

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