Is your child's school properly maintaining this life-saving device?
Texas law requires all schools in the state to have at least one automatic external defibrillator (AED) on each campus. However, there is no standard or oversight when it comes to maintaining them .
CBS Austin requested maintenance records from several school districts in Central Texas and found districts vary greatly when it comes to consistency and thoroughness of AED upkeep.
Austin resident and former high school football player Matt Nader knows the importance of a working AED. In September of 2006 on a humid Friday night, Nader's life changed forever.
"(Football) was my life basically, from the time I was a little boy," said Nader. "I was an offensive tackle."
By his junior year, scholarship offers poured in like the fans who came to watch. "My hopes and dreams were kind of coming to fruition," said Nader.
That all changed when Nader sat down on the sidelines and felt a sudden explosion in his chest. He doesn't remember the rest.
In the following moments, his parents, both doctors, rushed from the stands to the sidelines and began CPR. Another doctor, cardiologist at St. David's South Austin Medical Center, Paul Tucker, happened to be there too.
"Here is a young man with his whole life in front of him. And you're just thinking, I've got to, we the team, everybody, we have to make this work," said Tucker. "Failure is not an option."
Tucker immediately recognized the signs of cardiac arrest and called out to see if the school had an AED. In 2006, the state law requiring all schools to have one was not yet in place. However, just a few years earlier, someone donated one to the school. The athletic trainer knew where it was and kept it well maintained.
Heart Hospital of Austin cardiologist and Board President at the American Heart Association Vivek Goswami said maintenance of AED's are critical. "(Cardiac arrest) is one of the true emergencies in medicine where every second counts," said Goswami. "We never know where these are going to occur, they often happen without warning."
AED's often have recalls or software updates that go unnoticed, especially if the device is not registered, according to Goswami. The batteries can expire and the adhesive gel can also break down over time. "At that point, it's a paper weight," said Goswami.
One study by cardiologist Dr. Brad Sutton at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, found one in five AEDs his researchers tested in various public buildings didn't work. Others failed their tests due to expired equipment.
CBS Austin requested AED maintenance logs from Round Rock, Pflugerville, Leander, Austin, Eanes, Hays, and San Marcos school districts. We found Pflugerville, Eanes, and San Marcos school districts were some of the most consistent when it came to monthly checks, ensuring the device worked and the materials weren't expired.
Leander, Round Rock and Austin ISDs all keep logs of expiration dates for their devices. The districts rely on school representatives to walk by the device to check that a green light is flashing, indicating the machine performed a self-check.
Leander says its logs are turned into the district, however those documents were not released to CBS Austin.
AISD Athletic Coordinator Denise Vanlandingham said the AEDs in Austin schools beep loudly warning of a low battery. She said the district changes the batteries before they dip lower than 20 or 30 percent.
Vanlandingham said students and staff walk by the AEDs daily and would hear the device if it warned them of an issue. Still, she admits the weekly logs are not checked by the district. "It's kind of an honor system sort of thing," said Vanlandigham.
Vanlandingham said she believes the AEDs are sustained appropriately and reminds staff every two months to make maintenance a priority.
When CBS Austin looked through records at Hays CISD, we noticed the district keeps some of the most detailed logs and that many schools checked more than the monthly recommendation. Still, others fell short. "This has given us an opportunity to look through our logs," said Director of Student Health at HCISD Macie Walker.
CBS Austin found several schools that only checked the AEDs once or twice a year. Others had no record of checking at all.
Walker said she and the district are committed to doing a better job at maintaining the AEDs. Since CBS Austin brought this to the district's attention, Walker said the district developed a stricter system of checks and balances. "We are appreciative of the story because it gave us the opportunity to be able to improve our processes," said Walker. "Although we are grateful that we don't have to use them very often, when we need them, we need them to be functioning appropriately."
Hays CISD is now dedicating a certain day each month for schools to check AEDs. They then plan to follow up within two days to make sure the maintenance record was submitted to the district.
It is important to note, a working AED at HCISD saved the life of a special education teacher, Jayne Baker, in 2015. "When it was a life or death situation, it was there for us," said fellow teacher who helped save Baker, Kate Hungerford.