— ANDERSON, Ind. — The first time Drew Brantley’s heart stopped, he was dead for at least four minutes.
It was during a basketball game at his high school in Kokomo, and he collapsed on the floor.
“I was a three-sport athlete in pretty good shape, physically,” said Brantley, now a 20-year-old sophomore at Anderson University. “If it could happen to me, it could happen to anybody.”
He survived, thanks to four jolts from his school’s Automated External Defibrillator, or AED. It was the first of three times he’s needed one.
Now, Brantley uses his story to teach about the importance of AED accessibility.
AEDs “speak for themselves through me,” Brantley said. “I got lucky there was one (an AED) around, but they need to be everywhere.”
He works with organizations like Indiana University Health and Boston Scientific, which makes the Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator that helps keep his heart beating from inside his body.
Brantley wears a little red heart pin on his jacket, a symbol of Boston Scientific’s Close the Gap Foundation, which works to address disparities in cardiovascular care.
“That first time, I had a pretty low chance of surviving, like 40 percent,” Brantley said. “And that’s with an AED. If there wasn’t one (nearby), it would have been zero.”
Sudden Cardiac Arrest isn’t a heart attack, which happens when a blockage prevents blood from getting to the heart muscle.
Rather, the heart just stops beating, abruptly and without warning.
SCA causes more than 325,000 deaths per year, according to the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association, and can strike regardless of age, race or gender.
It also affects some, like Brantley, who seem in good health.
In the U.S., one competitive young athlete dies of SCA every three days, according to the Close the Gap Foundation. Most -— 90 percent -— of those are male, and their average age is 17-and-a-half.
When cardiac arrest occurs, defibrillation is often the “single most important factor affecting survival,” says the SCA Association.
An AED machine works by sending an electric shock to the heart to restore the natural heart rhythm.
The red-and-white, wall-mounted boxes they often come in are the first thing Brantley notices when he enters a room.
But “a lot of gyms don’t have them. A lot of churches don’t have them,” he said. “They need to be everywhere.”
The machines don’t come cheap. An AED can cost around $1,200 to $1,400.
“But it’s worth it,” he said. “They can save lives.”
Even if there’s an AED handy, not everyone is trained to use them, Brantley said.
“They’re pretty simple, and there’s a little instruction book in the kit,” he said. “But training (class) is like four hours, one time.”
Baylee Pulliam is a reporter for The Herald Bulletin in Anderson, Ind.