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JASPER (March 8, 2012) — The Walker County School System became the first “Heart Safe School System” in Alabama on Thursday as Alabama LifeStart Director Cris Brown presented free automated external defibrillators (AEDs) and AED training equipment to the Walker County Board of Education at its regularly-scheduled meeting.

The award signifies that the Walker County School System is one of the first in the state to integrate AED education and training into its ninth-grade curriculum. Soon every ninth-grade student in the school system will have an opportunity to learn how to use an AED in case of a sudden cardiac arrest emergency. This will be an advancement of the goal of Alabama LifeStart to equip every school in the state with the knowledge and materials to help avoid youth deaths due to sudden cardiac arrest.

"Each year thousands of high-school age children in the U.S. die from sudden cardiac arrest, so this is an exciting announcement for students and parents across the state," said Dr. Yung Lau, medical director of Alabama Life Start and a pediatric electrophysiologist at UAB. "Thanks to the leadership of this school system and thanks to the training made possible by this award, children in Walker County will be much better equipped to take care of one another if there is ever a life-threatening sudden cardiac arrest at their schools."

Alabama LifeStart received a grant of $7,700 from the Walker County Community Foundation to help start the AED training process. This enabled the program to donate additional AEDs and AED training materials so that each of the system’s 19 schools, elementary through high school, can receive an additional AED to further guard against sudden cardiac arrest. Donations from Alabama LifeStart and the Walker County Community Foundation are also set to fund the costs of AED trainer units, training mannequins, and instructor certification at each of the system’s six high schools: Carbon Hill, Cordova, Curry, Dora, Oakman and Parrish. Additional funding for Alabama LifeStart was provided by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama and Lord Wedgwood Charity.

Alabama Life Start was started by Dr. Lau, Barbara Mostella and Brown as an initiative of Children’s of Alabama and the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Alabama LifeStart is an affiliate of Project ADAM, and is one of nine affiliates across the country that serve children by providing life-saving equipment and education programs that help prevent sudden cardiac arrest.

Children’s of Alabama has provided specialized medical care for ill and injured children across the state and throughout the southeastern U.S. since 1911. It is the only hospital in Alabama dedicated solely to the care and treatment of children. It is currently licensed for 275 beds. Ten of its divisions – pulmonology, neurology and neurosurgery, orthopedics, urology, neonatology, cancer, cardiology, gastroenterology, endocrinology and nephrology—were recently ranked among the best children’s hospital programs in the nation by US News & World Report. Children’s is recognized by the American Nurses Credentialing Center as a Magnet-designated hospital for excellence in nursing care. It is a private, not-for-profit hospital that serves as the primary site of the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) pediatric medicine, surgery, research and residency programs. A 750,000-square-feet expansion is currently under construction and will open in June. Last year, patients made more than 634,000 outpatient and nearly 14,000 inpatient visits to Children’s. More information is available at