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Indiana mother pushes legislature to pass defibrillators law

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Senate Bill 369 would make it mandatory for all Indiana schools to have automated external defibrillators, known as AEDs, at all athletic events, including practices.

Julie West and her nonprofit Play for Jake are lobbying the Indiana Legislature to pass the measure. The bill is now in a conference committee after passing both the House and Senate with amendments.

West’s son Jake, a two-sport athlete at LaPorte High School, died in 2013 after leaving the practice field.

“Even in high school, he would see someone kind of being left out and picked on and he was the one that would stand up for that child or bring people in, he just had a smile on his face all the time,” the mother said.

West said her son never showed any signs of heart trouble or other health issues until he died. “His first sign of anything being wrong with his heart was sudden cardiac arrest, and that happens often. That could be the first sign of a condition of a heart condition, so that’s why it’s so important that we get our children screened on the front end.”

Senate Bill 369 could require that AEDs be present in other extracurricular activities, such as band and drama practices. The AEDs would be paid for out of the state’s Safe Schools Fund, a pot of money set aside to pay for school safety enhancements. West said, “I’m hoping eventually mandated for all schools to have these sudden cardiac emergency response plans in their school, we practice every other drill, we know what to do we know how to protect kids.”

The Play for Jake Foundation is also teaming up with other nonprofits to hold heart screenings for children and teens so potentially deadly heart ailments can be revealed before it’s too late.

“I had to wake up every day and decide: ‘What would Jake want me to do? How does he want me to live?’ I know my son well enough, and he’s such a great all-around kid, and he would want me to do what I am doing now,’” West said.