Parents, coaches push for AEDs to be accessible at public fields

NORTHBOROUGH, Mass. — AEDs are now required at all school athletic facilities, but many people are concerned a recently-approved law doesn’t go far enough to protect young athletes.

Earlier this year, Massachusetts legislators approved a bill requiring automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) in every public school, but the bill did not mandate them at public fields often used by local sports leagues that aren’t on school property.

“It scares me. I mean, I want public places like these fields to have AEDs,” Ralph Thibodeau said.

Thibodeau’s son Josh died several years ago after his heart stopped beating while playing soccer.

“Josh was 12 years old, he was at a soccer camp. He had an undetected heart condition,” Thibodeau said. ”Gorgeous morning in July. He was doing a light exercise. And he collapsed.”

Now Thibodeau carries a red bag containing an AED to every practice and game.

The devices are used to help save someone having a cardiac issue, and they can be operated with just a small amount of training.

“I mean if you told me six years ago that kids die from sudden cardiac arrest I was oblivious to this,” Thibodeau said.

Thibodeau and his wife Deb have become advocates for making AEDs more widely available, and they helped convince political leaders to pass the law earlier this year requiring them at schools.

Many times heart problems can exist in children and adults with them having no knowledge. But other times, like in the case of goalie Ben Godbout, you do know.

“I listen to my body my heart rate gets higher I always take a break, get water,” Godbout said.

Thibodeau said he and his wife have hope, but for now they’re trying to spread word about the importance.

“We never want anyone to feel the way we feel today,” he said.