By all accounts, 15-year-old Gregory Moyer was a healthy high school athlete; his most serious injury had been a broken finger.
No one suspected anything wrong as the Notre Dame of East Stroudsburg sophomore left the basketball court during halftime of an away game in December. But then he suddenly collapsed on the locker room floor in cardiac arrest. Efforts to administer CPR failed.
His mother, Rachel Moyer, believes her son’s chances of survival might have improved if a defibrillator had been available. His death has inspired the family to raise money to buy the heart-starting electrical devices for schools and other public places, and push for legislation requiring them in schools.
So far, the Gregory W. Moyer Defibrillator Fund has raised more than $80,000. Ten defibrillators have been purchased for schools in Monroe County, where Notre Dame of East Stroudsburg is located. The school is among the first in Pennsylvania to acquire such equipment, and other school districts around the state are preparing to do the same.
State lawmakers are also getting involved, introducing legislation in both the House and Senate that would provide grants to schools for up to 50 percent of the cost of a defibrillator, which generally runs between $2,000 and $3,000 apiece.
A bill sponsored by Rep. Kelly Lewis, R-Monroe, would set aside $6.3 million in grants. Similar measures proposed by Sens. Lisa Boscola, D-Northampton, and Harold Mowery, R-Cumberland, would earmark $1.5 million. None of the bills mandate defibrillators in schools.
About 225,000 adults die of sudden cardiac arrest each year in the United States, according to the American Heart Association. As defibrillators have become smaller and easier to use, medical experts have been pushing to make them available in public places ranging from airplanes to malls.
“It’s certainly not a bad idea to have them in schools,” said Dr. James M. Fattu, president of the heart association’s Pennsylvania-Delaware affiliate. “You might not only be concerned about a student athlete, but also a spectator at a school event, or a family member who goes to the PTA.”