Reality Check: School employee says defibrillator saved his life

By: Elizabeth Dorsett Email
By: Elizabeth Dorsett Email

School leaders say since Fayette County installed automatic external defibrillators in all their schools in 2006, they've only been used twice. Once on Monday when 14-year-old Ben Highland collapsed during spring baseball training at Lafayette High School and once at Cardinal Hill Elementary.

"Yes, it did save my life," explained Cardinal Valley Elementary School janitor Bill Ward as he pointed out the automatic external defibrillator hanging on the wall.

The AED hangs right by the front door of the school and Ward says he passes it dozens of times a day. He says few things brighten his day as much as smiles on student's faces, but he says the machine comes awfully close.

"I feel its great---I wouldn't be here if they didn't have it," he explained while giving a short tour of the school.

Ward was the first person to ever need the automatic external defibrillator or AED in a Fayette County School. He says his heart attack happened while working in the cafeteria on November 2, 2009 when he was 46 years old.

"I felt like I had the flu or something," Ward explained while describing that day.

"Didn't have chest pain or anything. Just dropped while I was working in the cafeteria."

Ward continued "They did CPR and couldn't get anything And I was starting to change colors. The staff did a wonder taking care of me Making sure I'm still here."

Ward, affectionately known as Mr. Bill around in the halls of the school, says his favorite job now is checking on the AED---making sure the battery always reads "ok."

"Check it once a month," he said while pointing out the battery.

School leaders say there's one AED in every elementary and middle school, and three per high school. They were installed six years ago at a cost of $151,000.

Ward says they're priceless.

"I think it's a really wise investment," he joked. "But if you need it, it's a godsend."

School officials say each AED is equipped with infant pediatric pads in case there is an emergency with a baby.

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