Severe brain damage or death is minutes away when a person collapses from sudden cardiac arrest, and beyond the walls of a hospital only one thing — a $2,000 device called an automated external defibrillator — can forestall it.
Malin Von Knorring, a 16-year-old junior at Maria Carrillo High School, launched a campaign in January to install four of the lifesaving instruments, known as AEDs, at her Rincon Valley school.
Her effort, which won praise from school officials and the manager of a local ambulance service, is nearing fruition as the defibrillators should be in place early next year.
"Because we don't have one, somebody could die," said Von Knorring, a Key Club member with an A-plus average who also runs track, plays club soccer and is copy editor of the school newspaper, the Puma Prensa.
Cardiac arrest kills 1,000 people a day in the United States, most of them people with heart disease, but it also strikes young, outwardly healthy individuals — and the vast majority die before they reach a hospital.
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation can keep blood flowing to the brain and vital organs, but an electrical shock is needed to restore normal heart function to a victim of cardiac arrest.
A 14-year-old Piner High student collapsed during a gym class in 2005 and died two weeks later when he was taken off life support.
Von Knorring learned about cardiac arrest and automated defibrillators from her mother, Michelle, a nurse, and heard about the Piner fatality from Craig Wycoff, an assistant principal at Maria Carrillo.
She raised $650 by selling first-aid kits, applied for a grant and then turned to Dean Anderson, general manager of AMR/Sonoma Life Support, for help acquiring the defibrillators and training the Maria Carillo staff to use them.
"It really is kind of foolproof," said Von Knorring, who also took CPR/AED training.