Life-saving and life-changing partnerships

by David Morgan, Lawrence County Executive

Lawrence County is known for accomplishing great things through community partnerships. I’m often told that leaders in other counties, even those bigger than ours, wonder at the results we achieve.

One of those community partners has stepped up again to make a big difference in our lives. With a vote from its Board members, the Joseph F. and Dr. Hazel Kraus Human Development Foundation provided $25,000 to purchase 19 new Automated External Defibrillators for all public and two private Lawrence County schools.

The importance of AEDs at our schools hit home with an event at Leoma Elementary in April. Alanna Owen, then 13, collapsed on the far side of the playground and was unresponsive: she had no pulse, and was not breathing.

Thankfully, teachers and staff were prepared for such an event and went into action. Alanna received CPR and two defibrillation shocks from the school’s AED, which are credited for saving her life in those crucial moments before emergency responders arrived.

The AED report showed Alanna’s heart had gone into ventricular fibrillation, in which the lower chambers of the heart contract in a very rapid and uncoordinated manner. This stops the heart from pumping blood to the rest of the body, and is the most frequent cause of sudden cardiac death. AEDs are used to detect irregular heart rhythms and shock them back to normal.

Lawrence County Fire & Rescue, Lawrence County EMS, Lawrenceburg Fire Department, and the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department responded to the scene. Alanna received Advanced Life Support care, began breathing on her own and regained consciousness.

A medical helicopter took her to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, where a genetic heart defect was discovered and later corrected with surgery. The Owen family realized other relatives may have lost their lives to that issue, and had testing done to determine who might also have it. Alanna’s terrible experience will probably save other family members’ lives.

The event also sparked conversation in the school system about existing school AEDs, and an inventory showed some were due for updates. Director of Schools Michael Adkins approached the Kraus Foundation, whose Board offered to buy new AEDs for our public schools and Sacred Heart Elementary Schools in Lawrenceburg and Loretto.

The Kraus Foundation was established in 2010 with a substantial gift from Dr. Hazel Kraus, a local optometrist who passed away that year. Her husband Joseph was a businessman who passed away some years earlier.

The AED purchase fit the Kraus Foundation’s objectives perfectly, said its Chairman, Tim Pettus. “Dr. Kraus’s instructions were that the Foundation benefit children’s physical and mental health.”  The Foundation was the first donor to the Abigail’s Plan Field, and gave a substantial donation to the Southern Tennessee Higher Education Center. The Foundation will continue to benefit children “forever,” Pettus added.

Jenny Golden, Coordinated School Health Supervisor for Lawrence County Schools, said Lawrenceburg’s One Stop Medical also donated AEDs to Summertown and Loretto High School sports programs. A state grant to the school system paid for seven others in the last two years, so all schools, sports programs, and response teams are well prepared for emergencies.

Angel Carter with Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital’s Project Adam helps train the school system’s coaches in CPR and AED use, and conducts practice runs with school response teams, Golden added. She also provides hands-only CPR training to all 9th grade wellness classes. Most school nurses can provide CPR training as well.

Finally, Golden thanked Lawrence County EMS for its help during emergencies and in preparation for them. EMS Assistant Director Kane Watkins offers and coordinates CPR training in the school system and to the public, and can be contacted to discuss course options at 762-3566.

Lawrence County EMS has been recognized by the American College of Cardiology as a Partner in Care organization for its partnership with our hospital, STRHS-Lawrenceburg, which is an ACC Chest Pain Accredited medical facility.

I am extremely proud to work with people from all sectors of our community who are so dedicated to helping others.

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