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AEDs gifted to area schools

ABOVE: Several area schools were awarded with AEDs in a special ceremony at East Chain Activity Center on Monday. From left: Riley Hiller of All Star Nutrition, Megan Morgan (Martin County West) Scott Smith (ADM), Cairne Eytcheson(Truman Public Schools), Terry Larsen, Mary Bennett, Marge Thiesse (Martin Luther High School) Bob and Lori Calkins, Cyndi Jensen (East Chain Activity Center).

EAST CHAIN– On Monday several area schools were awarded AEDs to be placed in their gyms or elsewhere in their facilities. The AEDs were given in part by Terry Larsen, an East Chain alum whose daughter, Faith, died unexpectedly last year from sudden cardiac arrest. Larsen had a goal of raising funds in Faith’s honor and putting an AED in every school in Martin County.

An AED (automated external defibrillator) is a user-friendly device that can restore normal heart rhythm by delivering an electric shock. Using an AED after a sudden cardiac arrest can greatly increase the person’s chance of survival.

In October of 2022 Larsen collapsed playing basketball with friends and while CPR was administered before emergency support arrived and her heart restarted, Larsen suffered from lack of oxygen to the brain for too long. Had an AED been readily available, Larsen’s outcome may have been different.

Cyndi Jensen is owner/operator of the East Chain Activity Center. She explained how she came to be involved with awarding the AEDs to local schools.

“A woman at All Star Nutrition in Mankato wanted to help raise awareness and started a fundraiser in Faith’s honor, which raised like $3,700,” Jensen said.

Meanwhile, Terry works at ADM in Mankato and one of his coworkers put him in touch with Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, which gives non-cash awards to different causes.

“They came up with $10,000 to award 10 AEDs to area schools,” Jensen explained.

Through that, the East Chain Activity Center was given three devices and gave two to Granada-Huntley-East Chain this past summer.

“Meanwhile, ADM matched what All Star Nutrition raised. Terry reached out to us because the matching funds had to go to a 501(c)(3) and we agreed,” Jensen said of how she and the East Chain Activity Center became involved.

Jenson checked with local schools in the county and learned that Blue Earth Area Schools and Fairmont Area Schools had sufficient AEDs but Trumans were in need of replacement and Martin County West (MCW) needed some, as well as Martin Luther High School (MLHS).

On Monday MCW, Truman Public Schools and Martin Luther High School all received AED Plus and a set of Pedi-Padz, valued at $1,800 each. The East Chain Activity Center received a wall mount AED cabinet and wall signing valued at $261.

The AEDs are also portable so can be used out on the football team or taken by teams to sporting games.

“There’s a lot of potential,” Jensen said.

Megan Morgan, a licensed school nurse at MCW, has a goal of making sure that more and more people know how to use AEDs.

She said that another staff member in the MCW district also lost her son, Karson, to sudden cardiac arrest and that last year the Karson Kent Janssen Memorial awarded the district an AED for the weight room.

“Last year we collaborated and I went into a sixth grade classroom with her and taught the students CPR and AED education. This year for our sports in the fall, I went to the cross country, volleyball and football teams and taught CPR and some AED. It was hands-on education,” Morgan said.

She thinks it’s important that local schools were given the AEDs because sudden cardiac death is the leading cause of death in young athletes and results in one death of a high school student every three days.

“For our rural communities, it could take 10 or 15 minutes for them to get here, which is vital time wasted. Using an AED within one minute results in a 90 percent survival rate. It’s so important to have them accessible and equitable in our communities,” Morgan said.

She did note that while the ambulance services are important, having an AED provides a life-saving tool in the gap time before the ambulance arrives.

On Monday Larsen said he has reached out to State Representative, Bjorn Olson, about the need to get AEDs more accessible.

“I’d like to see them get a bill that any place with any amount of people to gather, that they have these,” Larsen said.

Speaking on the gift of the AEDs, Morgan said, “I think what they’re doing is inspiring because through the loss of theirs, it’s creating a platform so that hopefully that won’t happen here in our schools… we’re very grateful for this.”

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