AEDs (automated external defibrillators) -- devices that can help save the lives of cardiac arrest victims -- have been installed in public places in the town of Westport. This was made possible through the generosity of Mark and MaryGrace Gudis and Norwalk Hospital in partnership with Westport officials. From left are: Yves Cantin, President, Westport Volunteer EMS; Mike Rickard, Supervisor, Norwalk Hospital EMS; Mark Gudis; Westport First Selectman James Marpe; Marc Hartog, Deputy Director, Westport EMS; MaryGrace Gudis; Westport Police Chief Foti Koskinas; Larry Kleinman, Treasurer, Westport Volunteer EMS; and Matt Soicher, Director of EMS, Norwalk Hospital. (contributed photo)
NORWALK, CT - AEDs (automated external defibrillators) have been installed in area towns thanks to the generosity of MaryGrace and Mark Gudis of Westport. The Gudis family partnered with Norwalk Hospital to donate 100 AEDs for distribution in the towns of Westport, Norwalk, New Canaan, Wilton, and Weston. An AED is a portable device that delivers electrical shock to a heart that is not beating with the intent of restoring normal electrical rhythm so that the heart will beat again.
A near tragedy in the town of Westport earlier this year underscored the importance of having AEDs accessible in public places. Norwalk Hospital Trustee Mark Gudis helped save the life of a 17-year old student who experienced sudden cardiac arrest at a sporting event at Staples High School. Fortunately, Mr. Gudis, a Staples parent, had an AED in his car and took immediate action while athletic trainers and two parents performed CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation) and called 9-1-1. The student made a full recovery.
Following this incident, Mr. Gudis said, “It was apparent that we need more AEDs in our schools, on our athletic fields and in our community centers and we were pleased to take the lead in this effort.” Staples High School’s Service League of Boys, including the young man whose life was saved, assembled and labeled all the AEDs and exterior cabinets for distribution to the local towns. “We appreciate the support and efforts of the Staples Service League of Boys. This was a major project and is a great example of the community coming together for an important cause,” said Mrs. Gudis.
“We hope this initiative will inspire other communities to take the necessary steps to help ensure that there are more Heart Safe communities,” Mr. Gudis added.
The Gudis’ and Norwalk Hospital were recently awarded with the American Red Cross Hero Award for their recent initiative and pledge to develop more public-private partnerships within the communities.
Sudden cardiac arrest is a leading cause of death in the United States, affecting nearly 400,000 people each year, according to Matt Soicher, director of EMS at Norwalk Hospital. It can happen anywhere and to people of all ages; less than 1 in 10 survive. Sudden cardiac arrest occurs when the electrical system of the heart malfunctions, resulting in very irregular and potentially fatal heart rhythm. Using AEDs and performing CPR immediately (within a few minutes) can greatly impact the victim’s chance of survival.