Greg Moyer's grave is marked by a homemade cross. Rachel Moyer vowed not to purchase a headstone until every school in America had an automated external defibrillator, the emergency heart-rhythm equipment that might have saved her 15-year-old son from sudden cardiac arrest during a basketball game in December 2000 - if only his high school had owned one.
Greg Moyer's grave is marked by a homemade cross. Rachel Moyer vowed not to purchase a headstone until every school in America had an automated external defibrillator, the emergency heart-rhythm equipment that might have saved her 15-year-old son from sudden cardiac arrest during a basketball game in December 2000 - if only his high school had owned one. At the time, Rachel, a teacher, had never heard of an AED, but has since donated more than 1,000 such devices to schools nationwide as a current member and past president of Parent Heart Watch (formerly the National Cardiac Parents Network). She makes roughly 50 educational presentations annually and has trained more than 15,000 individuals in CPR and AED use. As she travels the country, often at her own expense, she deals with legislators and lobbyists, not to mention the surviving family members of SCA victims. "I live and breathe AEDs every day," she says. With more than half of the United States having no AED-related legislation on the books, Paul Steinbach asked Moyer about the life journey still ahead.
Q: What has kept you going these past 11 years?
A: We don't want another death. We know what saves kids, and it's so important that schools recognize the need to put in a $1,500 AED and train people before they decide to buy classroom iPods or a Smart Board. Sometimes they just don't get it. They think this won't happen to them. When there's a tragedy, people just jump on the bandwagon like SCA is such a novel thing, and it's not.
Q: Three adolescents died of SCA within a three-day span in October. What goes through your mind when you learn of a new SCA case?
A: It sickens me. There's a sense that we're just not doing a good enough job to make people realize how a parent could probably handle the death of a child if he or she knew everything possible was done, that there wasn't something missing. I think it's criminal that schools don't take the responsibility of having an AED on site, of making sure that kids are going to be taken care of. I mean, how many deaths will it take?
Q: Has the national focus on sports concussions hamstrung your AED advocacy?
A: Sudden cardiac arrest is the number-one killer in the country, and people don't get that. I recently met the lobbyist for an athletic trainers association, and she kept on bringing up this thing about concussions. This is a horrible, horrible thing, but it's not tangible. We can't put our hands on it. We can put our hands on an AED, and we can use it to give these kids a second chance. What is so hard about putting an AED on every playing field and in every school?
Q: How much does it bother you personally that Greg still is without a headstone?
A: I feel guilt and I ask, "Was I really out of line?" I don't mean to make Gregory some kind of a saint. He was no different or any more special than any of these other kids who have died, but he's also the only one who doesn't have a headstone. Do I want everybody to know about Greg? More important, I want them to know that AEDs are needed to save lives. I know that Greg's doing an "I've got your back."