A Surrey mom wants automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) put into schools after her son went into cardiac arrest over the summer.
Esmeralda Gomez’s son, Alex Romero Gomez, was at the gym at Surrey Sport & Leisure Complex on July 16 when he went into cardiac arrest.
“All of a sudden, he just collapsed,” she said. “We got the phone call saying (to) go over there because our son has collapsed. We had no idea the gravity of the situation.”
Gomez said four staff members attended Alex, who was 14 years old at the time, and administered CPR and used an AED.
“He just received one shock and that one shock with CPR was enough to… get the pulse back.”
After that, Alex went into a coma for 12 hours. He was first taken to Surrey Memorial Hospital, but then transferred to B.C. Children’s Hospital.
“We were told it was a stage three coma which is the worst of the worst and he had about less than 15 per cent chance of living,” Gomez said.
When Alex woke up, he was put in the ICU for 24 hours before moving to the cardiology section of the hospital for 11 days.
Two months later, the cause of Alex’s cardiac arrest is still unknown. Gomez said the tests came back “normal,” and he’s since had a genetic test done, the results of which will take about three to four weeks.
“As of right now, we have no answer. Nobody can figure out why it happened.”
Alex, now 15, is “really frustrated” with the situation “because he was a healthy kid,” Gomez said, adding that the family also doesn’t have any health issues, so it was “all unexpected.”
Alex, who plays competitive soccer with Surrey United, was given a six-week period before he could exercise and return back to sports. Last week, she said, was six weeks and he was training in the backyard when he ended up “getting really ill,” so the family went back to the emergency room.
“Things are just not getting better.”
At school, Alex has to have a “buddy” with him and can’t even go to the washroom on his own in case he goes into cardiac arrest.
That’s why Gomez wants the district to look at purchasing defibrillators for schools. She said she’s spoken with the vice-principal at her son’s school, Fleetwood Park Secondary, and was told they could get a portable AED for just Alex that he would have to carry between classes.
“But in order for that to happen, we’d have to apply for it, get a referral from a doctor, get a prescription, get all his paperwork done for him to even qualify to get one,” she said. “It doesn’t help the other (hundreds) of kids… because it’s just for Alex.”
Surrey Schools spokesperson Doug Strachan said the district has “long purchased” AEDs “where there’s a medical need identified,” which would include a prescription from a doctor. He said the district would then make an arrangement for a support plan for the student with the student and parents.
Asked if there are plans in the future for the district to purchase defibrillators for schools, Strachan said the provincial health officer “doesn’t see a need for that.”
An emailed statement from the Ministry of Education to the Now-Leader says the ministry also follows the recommendations of the provincial health officer, adding that districts should have staff who are trained to use it and regularly maintain it to ensure it is in working order when needed.
The statement also says the provincial health officer is also “continuing to work” with the Heart and Stroke Foundation to “review evidence on AEDs in schools, but at this point, is not recommending placement of AEDs in all schools.”
Gomez has since created an online petition through change.org that she plans to present to Surrey Board of Education Chair Laurie Larsen. The petition is to make AED machines available in all Surrey schools.