April 23, 2014

Parent pushes for defibrillators in local schools

A mother in Thornhill whose daughters’ heart conditions require defibrillators is pushing to make them available and mandatory in schools throughout York Region. Magi, who only wished to use her first name in order to protect her daughters’ identities, said both her 14-year-old and 12-year-old children have Brugada syndrome, a life-threatening heart rhythm disorder known to cause sudden death. Therefore, both girls require a defibrillator.

“Six months ago, I didn’t even know the word ‘defibrillator,’ ” said Magi, a teacher. “Now, [doctors] tell me heart disease in kids is more common, and I want their learning environment to be safe.”

Last summer, Magi took her daughter to the hospital for what seemed like a fever at the time. A few weeks after that, her oldest had a pacemaker put in, and her youngest daughter was diagnosed shortly after that.

But Ross Virgo, senior manager of public affairs and communications at the York Region District School Board, said that funding for the equipment, which Magi estimated can cost between $1,500 and $2,000 er machine, has to come from the provincial government.

“We have a policy that certainly permits defibrillators to be brought into schools by families who are affected,” Virgo added.

Magi’s daughters, who attend Carrville Mills Public School in the Thornhill Woods area, have access to a defibrillator that was donated by the Mikey Network, a non-profit group that promotes heart-healthy living. But she thinks the problem goes beyond her own family.

“I’m not here talking about just my kids anymore,” said Magi. “They should be in all the schools in York Region.”

Joel Hertz, Carrville Mills’ trustee, said that he is working alongside Magi to apply a consistent policy to every school in York Region — a task that would be impossible without allocated funding from the government.

“We have almost 200 schools,” Hertz said.

“We want to make sure we do things right and make sure people are properly trained,” he added.

Magi said she plans to petition the provincial government to allocate the funding.

“It comes down to money,” she said. “There are kids walking around with this silent killer. I’m just one small person, but I hope it will move somebody.”