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Little Rock Schools to Get AEDs

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- The death of Little Rock Parkview basketball player Antony Hobbs has turned the lack of on-site defibrillators at athletic events into an official cause.

For the moment, everybody's listening.

The Little Rock School District will be purchasing five automated external defibrillators, which will be on hand at sports events for the district's five high schools: Parkview, Hall, Central, McClellan and Fair.

The announcement was made at a Wednesday news conference at Parkview High School, which was attended by Hobbs' parents, Marcia and Antony Sr.

Hobbs died Jan. 2 after collapsing during the early minutes of a home basketball game against Lake Hamilton. State medical examiner Charles Kokes said the cause of death was hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a condition that involves the abnormal thickening of areas of the heart.

In Hobbs' case, death likely was caused by the thickness of the heart disrupting the electrical impulses that are sent from the brain to regulate heartbeat. Immediate defibrillation can reset those impulses in certain cases and has been statistically proved to increase a patient's chance for survival.

AEDs are portable devices designed to administer electrical shocks to the heart and ideally can be employed by anyone after a short period of training.

Without an AED available at Parkview's Ripley Arena, Hobbs went without defibrillation for several minutes before paramedics arrived.

The cost of the five AEDs will be footed by Arkansas Specialty Orthopedics as part of an initiative called The Antony Hobbs Project. Jimmy Tucker, an orthopedic surgeon with Arkansas Specialty Orthopedics, said the district's high schools are just the beginning of a larger push.

Tucker has been working with Lance Taylor, executive director of the Arkansas Activities Association, on ways to have AEDs available to all schools statewide.

"Our goal is to have one of these in every school out there," Taylor said.

Achieving that goal will require deep pockets. Tucker said an individual AED can cost $1,500, though the units can be as low as $900 if bought "in bulk." The AAA doesn't have the power to require school districts to have AEDs on-site, and any action from the state legislature would first require freeing up enough money from the state's budget to purchase the units.

Until that happens, Tucker plans to aggressively pursue other avenues.

"It's going to need private donations, and it's going to need corporate support," Tucker said.

Tayloralso said the AAA is discussing adding AED training to its requirements for coaching certification.

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