Mavs doctor hopes to raise $1 million to put AEDs in schools

Thursday, October 26th 2006, 5:02 am
By: News On 6

DALLAS (AP) A group headed by the Dallas Mavericks team physician said Wednesday it plans to raise $1 million for at least one automated external defibrillator in every Texas public high school after a recent mandate requiring the device.

The donations would help solve how some cash strapped school districts will afford the life saving heart stimulator, also known as AED, which costs about $1,200.

The University Interscholastic League voted last week to require that all 1,300 public high schools have at least one AED on campus but did not address how schools would pay for them.

The Texas Sports Medicine Foundation has already raised about half its goal and will give priority to rural school districts with smaller budgets, said Dr. T.O. Souryal, the group's founder.

``We're the safety net,'' said Souryal.

Putting AEDs on high school campuses vaulted to the forefront of the UIL's agenda after a recent rash of students who collapsed with suspected heart trouble, including three teenage football players who died in a 10 day span in Houston.

At least 600 high schools in Texas already have the devices in place, and most large school districts own several for their many campuses.

State Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Lewisville, said Wednesday she will introduce a bill next month that would require an AED at all athletic events, including games and practices. The Legislature convenes in January.

The bill will direct school districts to first try to secure funds for the devices through federal grants or private donations. Failing that, Souryal's foundation would cover the cost.

Logistically, Nelson's bill could require schools to have several AEDs, since subvarsity and varsity teams in different sports practice at the same time on different parts of campus.

Souryal, who said he worked with Nelson on the bill, said they talked about making AEDs available within a specific proximity of games or practices but decided to make the wording ``readily available.'' He said each campus would be unique in how close the device is to athletes.

``It depends on the geographical layout of the schools,'' Souryal said. ``But we have to start somewhere. I would rather them have one rather than none.''

Earlier this month, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst pledged to push for a law that would also require elementary and middle schools to have at least one AED.

Dewhurst's office estimated the cost to put a device in all 8,000 schools at $16 million, which he said would be covered by federal grants, public-private partnerships and state money.