By Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
Nearly four years ago, when 11-year-old Weston Reed collapsed and died on a Ballard Park soccer field, the only automated defibrillator owned by Tupelo Parks and Recreation was miles away in a locked office at the city pool.
Now through community efforts spearheaded by the foundation named in his memory, there are nearly 100 more automated defibrillators, hundreds have been trained to use the lifesaving devices and nearly 1,000 young athletes have been screened for heart defects.
On Saturday, junior high and high school athletes will have another opportunity to access a free sports physical that includes heart screening at the BancorpSouth Arena. Free Heartsaver AED training classes also will be available to the community.
“This is a way for him to give back,” said Weston’s dad, Lee Reed. “He would be telling kids to get tested.”
The incredible investment of time and resources to make the screenings, classes and automated defibrillator donations is something people shouldn’t take for granted, Lee Reed said.
“I don’t think people realize how fortunate we are,” he said. “I think it’s important that people realize Tupelo and the medical community are at the forefront of this.”
The foundation has held five community events since Weston’s death, and Bev Crossen, a longtime foundation volunteer organizer, does see a difference.
“Gradually more and more people know what an automated external defibrillator is,” Crossen said. “I’ve had an increase in phone calls requesting a CPR class.”
Tupelo’s Junior Auxiliary has further expanded the reach – training some 1,200 Tupelo High School students in CPR and automated defibrillator use through health classes over the past three years.
Sudden cardiac arrest is caused by a disruption in the electrical signals in the heart. Quick response with CPR and an automated defibrillator improve the chance of survival.
Older folks and those with prior heart trouble are at highest risk, but it can happen at any age.
According to the National Center for Sports Safety, sudden death in the young athlete is rare, with about 12 cases among high school athletes a year. In most events, underlying cardiovascular disease – usually asymptomatic and undiagnosed – is the cause.
“It can be anyone,” said Weston’s mom, Julia Reed.
Free sports physicals 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at BancorpSouth Arena in Tupelo. Open to junior high and high school students who play sports at school or in other leagues. No appointment necessary. Free T-shirts for students who take advantage of EKG screening, while they last.
Free CPR-AED classes at 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. at the BancorpSouth Arena. Preregister to insure a spot by calling (662) 372-2208. Walk-ins are welcome as space allows.