Of the many stories Rachel Moyer tells about people saved by automated external defibrillators, one stands out. It involves a former Notre Dame High School girls' basketball player from East Stroudsburg, Pa., whose team shared a bus with the boys' team the night in December 2000 that Moyer's sophomore son Greg died of sudden cardiac arrest. Finding inspiration in that tragedy, Maureen Burke is now an athletic trainer and just last year helped save the life of a 59-year-old sportswriter at a high school basketball game by using an AED. "To me, that's more than a coincidence," says Rachel Moyer, a past president of Parent Heart Watch and tireless grant writer for the Greg W. Moyer Defibrillator Fund. Since losing her son, Moyer has helped place 2,500 AEDs in schools across the country (a number that has more than doubled in the six years since AB last spoke to her) and trained more than 22,000 people in CPR and AED use. AB senior editor Paul Steinbach reconnected with Moyer for an update on her goal to see every high school in America outfitted with the life-saving technology.
Do you know how many people have been saved by AEDs you helped acquire?
I would be comfortable with saying dozens, but I bet it's hundreds. I'm personally in touch with 50 people who I know were saved with an AED that we were somehow related to.
How does it feel to hear of an AED save?
It's like winning the lottery. I could not be any more grateful. That's what I live for, and I feel like it's Greg's legacy. I don't know what parents do when they lose a child if they don't have something like this to keep them going. It inspires me that what we're doing is right, but we still have a way to go.
Can you estimate how many high schools have AEDs?
We've had laws passed in 28 states that require some kind of AED in schools. So I think it's at least 50 percent, but I know I'm not done.
What would help you in your mission most?
What I would like to see happen is college students in this country being trained and certified in CPR and AED use before they graduate, so that when they go out and get a job, they're going to know how to save a life. I think that all teachers should be certified in CPR. It should be part of their yearly in-service. This will not only be important for the schools, but also the communities where they live. People are so afraid they're going to hurt someone. When they learn that they can't do worse than dead, they get it.
When we spoke in 2011, you had pledged not to mark Greg's grave until every school had an AED. Does Greg have a headstone?
He does. On the 15th anniversary of his death, we did it. I definitely thought it was going to happen within 15 years. It's a very simple stone. The night he died, he was late getting on the bus, and he said to the people on the bus, including Maureen Burke, "Don't worry guys, I'm here," like he was the star athlete, which everyone knew he wasn't. So that's on his headstone: "Don't worry guys, I'm here." That just says everything about him.
This article originally appeared in the May 2017 issue of Athletic Business with the title "Momentum builds for mother’s AEDs-in-schools mission" Athletic Business is a free magazine for professionals in the athletic, fitness and recreation industry. Click here to subscribe.