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Back From the Dead: Finding Funding

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CEDAR RAPIDS - If someone near you suffered sudden cardiac arrest, and you had access to a simple device that would tell you exactly what to do to save that person's life, would you use it? Most people would say yes.

Automated external defibrillators, or AEDs are relatively easy to obtain and their cost has dropped considerably. But most places in Iowa don't have these life-saving devices and there are no laws that mandate them. Take a look at where they are, who they save, and the fight for more funding.

Brady Zantingh, 17, of Pella was playing in a basketball tournament at the University of Nebraska, Kearny this summer when he suddenly collapsed. Without warning, his heart stopped. Brady's coach gave him CPR and university staff used an AED that was located in the gym. They shocked him back from the dead.

The AED made all the difference. Doctors say it's the only known treatment for sudden cardiac arrest. Iowa's three public universities have AEDs on campus and a number of Iowa school districts have them. But most places in Iowa don't, and there's no state law that mandates AEDs.

Butch Gibbs is so grateful for his resurrection, he got a bill in the Iowa House this year to mandate AEDs in schools, but it died in committee for lack of funding.

"Here, we don't have an ambulance in each town. We've got one 20 miles to the northeast, 30 miles to the northwest," said Gibbs.

Even the best first responders can have trouble getting to a cardiac arrest victim within 3 to 5 minutes, when the chance of successful defibrillation is the greatest. Iowa does have a state program that allows schools, churches and community groups to apply for grant money to buy AED's, but the funding has dropped dramatically. And there's no money left in a state-administered federal grant program that has placed AED's with EMTs throughout Iowa. So Gibbs and fellow survivor Mary Tappe have lobbied members of Iowa's congressional delegation for more help and now they're playing the waiting game.

"Right now the House subcommittee has voted for two million...the Senate has voted for three million. Hopefully both houses will pass that. Three million is better than nothing, which is what we've got now," said Gibbs.

"I don't know why we don't have an AED every place we have a fire extinguisher. It just makes sense," said Tappe.

More businesses, like TV9, are buying AEDs for the workplace and with the cost coming down, from roughly $3,000 each to between $1,000 and $2,000, the hope is they'll become more readily available to the public.

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