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Collapse of Perham basketball player emphasizes importance of AEDs, safety measures in schools

The collapse of Zach Gabbard during last night's Perham boys basketball game emphasized the importance of emergency medical procedures and the presence of Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) during high school sporting events.

An AED was used on Gabbard in the Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton gym after he collapsed halfway through the first half of last night's basketball game.

Jody Redman, associate director of the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL), said that since the beginning of 2008 there have been 14 cases of sudden cardiac arrest in high school student athletes.

There is no hard data available before 2008, Redman said.

The MSHSL, in partnership with the Medtronic Foundation, launched a program called Anyone Can Save a Life in 2008 to get AEDs more readily available in Minnesota schools.

In addition, Redman said, a primary goal of the program was to raise awareness of the risk of cardiac arrest in athletes.

According to the program's website, the program's goal is to ensure that Minnesota schools are prepared to " respond to life-threatening emergencies that may take place during after-school athletic and activity practices and events."

Roughly 100-150 high school athletes die from cardiac arrest each year in the United States.

A 2008 survey of Minnesota schools conducted by the MSHSL said that 90 percent of schools surveyed have at least one AED, and at least 6 percent of schools have had a situation in their building that has required the use of an AED.

D-G-F athletic/activities director Craig Anderson, who was on hand when Gabbard collapsed, said that the goal in such an emergency situation is to make sure that assistance is available.

"We've had times where a coach does not feel well or a kid has a concussion and gets back up," said Anderson, who has been at D-G-F for 23 years. "But we've never had anything like this where we've had to take the defibs out. I've never seen anything like this. We are praying for him."

Tamara Uselman, superintendent of Perham schools, said that she saluted the MSHSL for getting AEDs in Minnesota schools.

"The ability to initially react to a critical situation for the best possible outcome is important," Uselman said. "You never want AEDs to be used, but they're the best possible tool when they're needed."

Perham schools have an AED in each building, Uselman said.

"From what I've heard," she said, "D-G-F officials did everything right last night. Our own basketball coach and his staff did everything they needed to do in an emergency situation. We're just thankful in a crisis that everyone stepped up to do what needed to be done."

Travis Hensch, dean of students and activities director of the New York Mills school district, said that NY Mills has an AED in the school's main gymnasium. The defibrillator has been in place for several years, he said.

There is also a second AED on the high school side of the building, he added.

Hensch also said that there are two licensed administrators on staff at every NY Mills home event who are trained in first aid.

A medical employee from the Perham Memorial Hospital and Home is also present at every home sporting event as well, Hensch said.

"We've been making a lot of phone calls to Perham last night and this morning," Hensch said. "Our thoughts are with Zach and his family. We told our own basketball players last night, go home and hug your family. Appreciate what you have."

For more information on the Anyone Can Save a Life program, visit

Continue to check back to for continuing coverage of Gabbard's condition.