WHITEFISH — While Damar Hamlin’s collapse has created concern over student-athlete safety, it has also generated awareness — and Whitefish High School athletic trainer Genevieve Girdner provided some reassurance by informing the public that like all professional teams, high schools today are also equipped with automated external defibrillators (AEDs) that can save lives.
"They were pretty primitive at first, now it pretty much tells you what to do," said Girdner. "It can do the heart rhythm for you so it won’t shock them on accident because it knows the heart rhythm is there."
And now in her fourteenth year as a high school athletic trainer, Girdner has seen the steps taken to improve student-athlete safety and knows that even someone without proper certification could operate an AED if necessary.
"It pretty much talks to you, and when you open it the pads will tell you where it needs to go," said Girdner. "And it’ll just start beeping and talking to you right away so you can get going. It’ll tell you what to do."
Whitefish isn’t alone in carrying the most up-to-date AED equipment, as all four other high schools in Flathead County also have multiple AEDs located throughout their campuses.
"From how to identify an emergency; whether it’s cardiac arrest, an asthmatic or a kid with a bee allergy, peanut allergy, anything like that, everyone needs to be on the same page as far as how to respond to that emergency and how to basically stay calm so things don’t spiral out of control," said Girdner.
As awareness only continues to grow, equipment continues to improve, and more coaches, referees and teachers in school districts become certified, there is comfort in knowing that student-athletes are in good hands.