Blount County mom pushes for AED devices in all Tennessee schools

MARYVILLE (WATE) – A life-saving tool could soon be required inside all Tennessee schools. This call for change has been led by Blount County mom Rhonda Harrill whose 13-year-old son collapsed while playing basketball in 2009. He sadly died of cardiac arrhythmia.

Harrill says an AED could have saved her son’s life, which is why she’s helped draft two bills. In 2010, the Tanner Lee Jameson Act mandated a school’s AED must be inside a gym or accessible area in case of an emergency.

Then in 2016, a new bill was made law requiring teachers and students to know how to use AED devices, as well as practicing in case they ever have to use it.

Previous story: Blount County mom gets heart-saving legislation signed by governor

This year, Harrill is heading to the capital again so other families don’t have to go through heartbreak.

“I stood at his feet, held his feet, cried, told him, ‘You’re strong.’ They were still in the process of CPR,” said Harrill describing the day Tanner died in 2009.

That day was every parent’s worst nightmare.

“I stayed in the room with him until they told us to leave,” she said.

Since then, Harrill has been drafting legislation. This year, she’s hoping every school in Tennessee will be equipped with an AED device.

“That’s always been my mission. It’s like anything, you learn the hard way. I learned the hard way. I lost my son because I didn’t know kids died of cardiac arrest.”

Rep. Bob Ramsey introduced House Bill 521 last week and along with the American Heart Association, researched beforehand, learning there are 180 schools in our state that do not have an AED.

“It’s something that’s going to save someone’s life and everybody deserves to have every chance possible in the world to save their life. Tanner didn’t get that chance,” added Harrill.

If passed, it would require Tennessee public schools to have an AED. Private schools would be encouraged to obtain one. Ultimately, it would be up to the school systems to fund that equipment and because there is a fiscal note on this bill, Harrill is concerned it might not pass.

“Think of your family member. Do you want to tell them that you didn’t want to pass a law because it cost a little bit of money?” she asked.

For now, ideas are still being bounced around as how to help pay for AED devices, but Harrill has faith this bill will eventually be made law.

“Tanner always said, ‘Someday mommy, everybody is going to know who I am.’ And they do. His name will always be out there,” she said.

Harrill has worked on getting an AED installed and getting staff trained at the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center in Blount County in case a visitor or student goes into cardiac arrest. Right now Harrill says she’s trying to provide a Maryville little league team with an AED to bring with them to each game.

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