Working to help heart attack victims survive

Michelle Bay, of Ventnor, and Christopher Fitzsimmons and Jack Keith, both of Atlantic City get training on an automatic external defibrillator from Joe Barrio, of Galloway Township, at the Atlantic City Aquarium.

When someone is having a heart attack, seconds matter in getting them treatment. Having an automatic external defibrillator, or AED, on site can save someone's life.

For more than a decade, the Heart Heroes at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center has raised money to help buy AEDs for schools, businesses, churches and other places where large numbers of people congregate.

They gave out their 97th defibrillator on May 13 at the Atlantic City Aquarium and are on target to distribute the 100th this summer.

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Working through the Atlanti-Care Foundation, the Heart Her-oes raises funds, typically paying half the $1,200 cost and asking the recipient to pay the other half. Sometimes other donors contribute funds so there is no cost to the recipient and AtlantiCare staff can also contribute through a payroll deduction.

Assumption Regional School in Galloway Township has raised money for the last two years by holding a Dress Down Day during National Heart Month in February. Last year their donation funded an AED for the Bayview Fire Comp-any in Galloway Township and this year will fund one for the senior center.

"The fire company came in last year and AtlantiCare did a demonstration on how the AED works," said Cathryn Flammer, Assump-tion Regional School director of institutional advancement. "The students can really see how their donation helps others."

The Heart Heroes focuses on fundraising, while nurse Rose Marie McCarthy, cardiology outreach coordinator for AtlantiCare, identifies recipients.

Louise Schieder, of Egg Harbor City, who with her husband, George, were among the founding members in 2001, said they've sold flowers at Easter and held bake sales and bus trips to raise money for defibrillators. The first AED went to the Northfield Comm-unity School in 2002.

"We really enjoyed it," Schieder said said. "And it's gotten easier since the price of AEDs has come down. They used to be $2,900."

Ray Coleman, of Absecon, a retired captain in the Atlantic County Sheriff's Department, just got involved last year after hearing a presentation about the program.

"I'm retired, and they were looking for volunteers," he said. "This is a good idea, though I really hope I'll never need one."

Other members include Patricia McCarthy, of Mullica Township, Kathy Rawa, of Egg Harbor City, Stephen Santiago, of Absecon, and Rita Triola, of Mullica Township.

McCarthy said when they give an AED they ask that at least one person on site be certified in CPR and how to use the new device, though technically the defibrillators are so automated now that almost anyone could use it in an emergency.

She said a new state law that requires all schools to have an AED by September 2014 has generated a lot more calls this year, so they can always use more funds and volunteers.

The next two AEDs are scheduled to go to the Noyes Museum of Art of Richard Stockton College in Galloway Township and the Emlen Physick Estate in Cape May.

Contact Diane D'Amico:


How to help

For more information on Heart Heroes, or to request an AED, contact Rose Marie McCarthy at

609-407-2343 or e-mail

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