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Karen Acompora, president of the Louis J. Acompora Memorial Foundation, heading ‘Anyone Can Save a Life’ program in New York

Louis J. Acompora lost his life in March 2000 at age 14 while playing lacrosse for his high school team of Northport High School in Northport, NY. His death was caused by a syndrome known as Commotio Cordis. This occurs from blunt impact trauma during the critical cycle in the rhythm of the heart. In his position as goalie, Louis blocked what appeared to be a routine shot with his chest protector, took a few steps and collapsed. Paramedics arrived with a defibrillator almost 15 minutes later, but it was too late to save his life.

Both of his parents, John and Karen Acompora, were at the game and watched as attempts to save their son failed. They later learned that had there been an automated external defibrillator on hand, his life would have been saved.

374John Acompora, manager of the fruit division for E. Armata Fruit & Produce at Hunts Point Terminal Market; Leah Olverd, Bethpage High School; Mike Cleary, Golds Gym; Karen Acompora, president of the of Louis J. Acompora Memorial Foundation; Mark Moskwa , Sayville High School; and John and Karen Acompora are the parents of Louis J. Acompora, who died of Commotio Cordis in 2000 at age 14. (Photo courtesy of Louis J. Acompora Memorial Foundation)Within a month the couple founded the Louis J. Acompora Memorial Foundation, with a goal of raising awareness of the need for schools and other public places where youth congregate to be better prepared to respond to sudden cardiac arrest by having automatic external defibrillators, commonly referred to as AEDs, on hand. The organization’s work has expanded to across the country and even beyond borders, and has only intensified over the years.

Karen Acompora is the president of the Louis J. Acompora Memorial. She told The Produce News that the organization is currently working with the Minnesota High School Athletic Association and the Medtronic Foundation, whose goal is to expand access to chronic disease care for the underserved worldwide.

“They have developed a program called ‘Anyone Can Save a Life,’” said Ms. Acompora. “It is a first-of-its-kind emergency response program for after-school practices and events. The program is designed to save lives from sudden cardiac arrest, a leading cause of death among adults and student athletes nationwide.”

The website states that by implementing the program, people are helping to ensure that school communities are “heart safe” equipped and prepared to respond to life-threatening emergencies that may take place during after-school athletic and activity practices and events.

New York was selected by the program to begin implementing “Anyone Can Save a Life,” and because of her interest in the program, Ms. Acompora was chosen to oversee the implementation.

“The templates are already created,” she said. “It involves coaches, parents, teachers and students in high schools and athletic associations. Each county in New York is given a section number. We are starting by approaching athletic directors in Suffolk and Nassau Counties. In Suffolk County alone there are about 65 athletic directors. Our hope is that once the program is introduced they will bring it back to their schools and train their coaches and students.”

Ms. Acompora added that an e-training module was launched on the website on May 1, and is available to anyone to view. The organization has also published materials for after school events and athletic practices. She has also been tasked with developing a New York page link for the website.

“This program is not a mandate, although there is a law that requires schools to have AEDs on hand and at athletic events,” she said. “But we often find that they aren’t handy enough, or that people aren’t properly trained in how to use one.”

Her hope is that the message is just starting to reach all industries, government facilities and communities in general.

Ms. Acompora is also strongly involved in the HeartRescue Project, a collaborative effort to increase sudden cardiac arrest survival rates. SCA is a leading killer of Americans, claiming an estimated 350,000 people each year. More than 90 percent of people who experience SCA die, representing a national survival rate that has not significantly changed in more than 30 years.

“The success of the HeartRescue Project is dependent on bystander response and improving community responses,” said Ms. Acompora. “Drills are needed to be done regularly to reeducate and reinforce the response protocol. We’re encouraging schools to do the ‘drop the dummy’ drill. Have someone pretend to have a heart attack and fall down. Make sure every single person is doing their part in the drill.”

Ms. Acompora also noted that she continues her relentless efforts to get a bill passed in New York State that requires all high school graduates to know CPR.

“Other states have it, and there is no reason for all graduates to not take the 30 minute course at some point in their high school education,” she said.