Chambers County School District earns Heart Safe designation

Published 10:30 am Wednesday, December 21, 2022

On Monday, Chambers County School District received the Heart Safe designation from the Children’s Hospital of Alabama as a part of the Project Adam initiative.

CCSD Lead Nurse Loretta Cofield worked to bring AEDs into county schools by following the Project Adam guidelines and collaborating with city EMS and school nurses.

“It being a detailed checklist, it does take the system’s hard work to get it accomplished, and she gets wonderful credit for that,” said John Stone, Community Action Manager of Children’s Hospital of Alabama. 

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A 14-point checklist determines the Heart Safe designation that each school must follow. Each school must have at least three to four automated external defibrillators (AED) in case of emergency.

Cofield and the other nurses have worked with Stone since last summer to ensure that every school checked off the list of requirements. Cofield met with Valley EMS Levi Richardson and LaFayette EMS James Doody to tour the schools to make a plan for the locations of the AED units.

The Children’s Hospital of Alabama and Project Adam program also sends supplies to the schools participating in the program, such as trainer units. Children’s of Alabama and Project Adam donated two AED defibrillators, trainer units and signage to the county.

“We’re committed to working with the system and with nurse Cofield and the board if there are other needs like trainer units,” Stone said. “We want to make sure that your schools remain top-tier when it comes to ensuring the safety of your students.”

Cofield also worked with the State Department of Education’s Health Service Division and Nurse Practitioner Carla Etherton and Dr. David Fagan of Valley Area Medical Pavilion to help complete the paperwork.

The school nurses also check the AEDs by the Project Adam guidelines weekly to make sure they are still functioning. 

Cofield said that this year an AED was brought to a scene during an incident when a student lost consciousness. Luckily, the student didn’t need to be shocked with the defibrillator.

“It’s something you don’t think about until something happens,” Cofield said.

Cofield said the program is important to help fortify schools against unforeseen cardiac emergencies at all times.

“Schools are gathering points for all ages from the students that go to the school to parents and grandparents at athletic games. You never know when a sudden cardiac arrest is going to happen and having an AED and being a part of Project Adam and Alabama LifeStart ensures that a school is ready. If an incident occurs, they are prepared,” Stone said.

Chambers County School District is among over 100 schools across the state that have become Heart Safe designated by the Children’s Hospital of Alabama and Project Adam.

Project Adam is a program that began in 1999 after Adam Level, a 17-year-old high school student died from a sudden cardiac arrest during a basketball game at school. His parents, Patty and Joe Level, founded Project Adam to bring AEDs into schools.

Cofield said that the schools have also gotten emergency medicine called naloxone, which is meant for drug overdose, and EpiPens for allergic reactions. School nurses also administer tube feeding as well as treatment for type 1 diabetes and asthma daily.

“I hope that the public will see that we’re making emergency provisions for their children should an emergency occur. Because parents put their kids in our hands every day. And the nurses in the school system are wonderful. We have great nursing staff, and we want to take care of them to the best of our ability,” Cofield said.