In remembrance of Tim White and to give back to the community who helped his family through his sudden death, 11-year-old Laura White, and her mom, Vicky White, donated an automated external defibrillator Friday morning to Val Vista Lakes Elementary School.
Sunday marks the one-year anniversary that Tim White, 51, died after sudden cardiac arrest in his Gilbert home.
A defibrillator would have saved his life, Vicky White said.
“It’s been a really difficult year,” she said. “We’re here today to honor Tim.”
Laura White, a sixth-grader at Val Vista Lakes, said it makes her “very proud” to donate the AED to her school.
“Now, there’ll always be a piece of my family in the school,” said Laura, who demonstrated how to use the lifesaving device in front of the other sixth-graders, who sat on the floor in the school library.
Laura also presented Val Vista Lakes Principal Susie Apel with the defibrillator. Apel then told the sixth-graders they would soon practice how to use the device, which uses a man’s voice to guide the person through the whole procedure, including CPR.
A child can use the machine and not feel like they will hurt anyone, because if a person does not need the shock of an AED, the unit will not deliver a shock.
“This is just another thing to add to our safety list,” said Apel, adding that the AED would be in the nurse’s office. “It’s a pretty amazing machine.”
While searching for support for herself and her daughter, Vicky White discovered the national organization of the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association. The closest local chapter was in Yuma, so White joined with her friend and fellow Girl Scout troop leader, Sara Edmund, to start an East Valley chapter in May. The group, which now has six moms involved, also establishes support groups for those who have lost loved ones to sudden cardiac arrest.
“The AED has enough power and energy to deliver a little shock to get your heart beating back to normal,” Edmund told the students Friday. “It helps anyone whose heart isn’t beating right.”
Edmund is a registered nurse who is going back to school to be a nurse practitioner. Her daughter, Jessica Sickels, is also a sixth-grader at Val Vista Lakes.
The East Valley Chapter of the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association’s goal is to raise money to buy the $1,000 devices for every school in the Gilbert Unified School District, and then all schools in Arizona. Only Gilbert high schools have the defibrillators. Val Vista Lakes Elementary is the first Gilbert elementary school to receive the device.
Next month, the East Valley chapter will donate a defibrillator to Finley Farms Elementary School in Gilbert.
“It’s (sudden cardiac arrest) the number one killer in America,” said Vicky White. “About 325,000 people a year die from sudden cardiac arrest.”
Gilbert district Superintendent Dave Allison, who was also at Friday’s presentation, told the students how a defibrillator saved the life of a food service employee at Desert Ridge High School last year.
The employee had just started working when she collapsed. Security guards started CPR and then the nurse brought the AED to the cafeteria and used the machine on the woman.
“The lady gained consciousness, and the nurse saved her life,” Allison said.