One teenager from Pascack Hills High School provided powerful testimony in Lodi on Tuesday on the importance of a new state mandate that requires high school staff and students be equipped and trained in life-saving techniques in the event of cardiac emergencies.
“I know that I’m standing here today because of an AED machine and individuals who were properly trained,” Anthony Cortazzo said of the automated external defibrillator.
Cortazzo, now a senior at the high school in Montvale, was at track practice in March when he collapsed and went into sudden cardiac arrest. Others on the field began to administer cardio-pulmonary resuscitation and Steve Papa, athletic trainer at the school, rushed to the field with an AED.
By the time an ambulance arrived, Cortazzo had a pulse and was breathing. Papa credits the “chain of survival” established at the school with the happy outcome.
Cortazzo suffered from a previously undetected congenital heart defect and soon underwent open heart surgery. He has been gaining strength since and plans to return to the football field in the next couple of weeks.
His story and others like it are rare but not uncommon, experts say, and have prompted the new legislation, which went into effect in September.
Every K-12 school in New Jersey is required to have at least one AED and staff trained in how to use it and perform CPR. A second law also requires high school students to be trained in CPR and AED use.