By William Croyle
ERLANGER - Fifteen-year old Justin Saccone of Alexandria died last September after he was hit in the chest with a baseball during a Knothole game at Pendery Park in Melbourne.Schools are buying defibrillators in hopes of saving a life should such a situation happen again.
The Campbell County High School student died from commotio cordis, a rare occurrence in which a low-impact, blunt trauma to the chest disrupts the heart's electrical system.
Nobody knows for sure if a defibrillator would have saved him, but his mom, Tammy Saccone, says, "It was the only thing that could have brought him back."
For that reason, many school districts and private schools in the area have purchased defibrillators. The devices can render an electrical shock to a quivering heart to get it back into rhythm.
The latest district to buy the machines is Erlanger-Elsmere, which bought seven this summer - one for each of its six schools and one for the gym at Lloyd Memorial High School.
"We bought them because we want to be prepared," said Mary Burch, the district's nurse and health coordinator. "It had a lot to do with (Justin)."
The battery-operated device costs a little more than $1,000. The small box weighs just a few pounds and can be mounted to a wall. When it's turned on, a voice provides instructions. Once the pads connected to the machine are placed on the victim's chest, the voice tells you if or when you should push the button to administer a shock. It also says whether you're pushing on the chest hard enough when administering CPR.
"It's like having a partner with you," said Laura Randall, executive director of Northern Kentucky Emergency Medical Services. "This unit coaches you through it all."
Since Justin's death, Kenton, Boone and Fort Thomas districts and Newport Central Catholic and Covington Catholic high schools are among the schools that have purchased defibrillators, she said
The Saccones bought 14 defibrillators with money from their Justin Allan Saccone Memorial Fund and donated them to the Campbell County School District, Pendery Park, county police and churches.
Tammy said she was unaware that the Erlanger-Elsmere district was buying the devices as a result of what happened to Justin.
"It feels great to know that people want to make sure this won't happen again," she said. "We're doing this for Justin so none of his friends - so nobody - has to go through this."
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