We recently had the pleasure of meeting Sara Bonneau, an amazing mom who is working with her legislators to make sure that all Rhode Island high schools and middle schools have functioning AEDs – and that an AED is present on athletic fields during school sporting events. On February 25, Sara testified at the State House for the first time sharing her personal story with the House Heath, Education and Welfare Committee. Here’s what she said.
My name is Sara Bonneau, I am from Barrington, RI. I have been married to a born and raised Rhode Islander for 17 years and I am the mother of three boys, Nick 14, Ryan 12 and Sean 9. I have lived in Rhode Island for 12 years. In 2002 when our son Ryan had the first of 2 open heart surgeries I had to literally hand him over to a team of surgeons who would save his life. In 2011 I had to do it again for his second lifesaving open heart surgery. Ryan is now a healthy (knock on wood) 12 year old that plays basketball for Barrington Middle School and hopefully God willing will compete at the high school level.
This December, for the first time since 2011 I had to “hand” Ryan over again. This time not to surgeons, but to various communities in Rhode Island that he and his team competed against who were not equipped with an AED or Automated External Defibrillator. As a current teacher in Massachusetts I was shocked! I thought every school was required to have a functioning AED. After reaching out to State Representative Jan Malik, I learned that sadly, this was not a requirement in Rhode Island. They are only required in health clubs and nursing homes.
Sudden cardiac death is the leading cause of death in athletes. This past December, a 15 year old Rhode Island boy died from sudden cardiac arrest at a basketball practice at Rogers High School in Newport. The tragic sudden cardiac death of Lincoln’s 15 year old Michael Monteleone in 2005 inspired his family to create the Michael Monteleone Memorial Fund which has raised over $350,000 and since his death has donated 159 AEDs to over 56 high schools and 40 middle schools in Rhode Island. Tragically many of these devices are sitting unused in various storage and equipment closets and are not maintained or working properly.
If we can save one child who will not die from an undiagnosed heart condition and sudden cardiac death in Rhode Island I believe it is worth it. I know many Rhode Islanders who agree. I plead to you today to make it a law and keep our children safe.