In March, Chris Daughtry stood in front of the Sampson County Board of Commissioners and explained how vital automatic external defibrillators were to victims of sudden cardiac arrest. It was the reason he targeted one of the most heavily-trafficked venues in the county for AED installation as part of his Eagle Scout project.
Just two days later, Chris’ father Neal, who had brainstormed with his son the idea of getting the AED for the Sampson Agri-Exposition Center, became one of those victims. Like so many affected by sudden cardiac arrest, Neal Daughtry hadn’t had any previous heart problems or symptoms before his death at just 58 years old.
“The irony of this project is two days after he gave his presentation, that happened,” Neal’s wife Sheila Daughtry said.
At that March meeting, Chris said he planned to raise nearly $1,300 to buy and install the AED in an alarmed cabinet at the Expo Center. The equipment was able to be purchased by the next month. Sheila said the community response to the project was overwhelming, infused with a groundswell of support amid the family tragedy.
“I think that’s why funds were raised so quickly,” she said. “I know for a fact that the Class of ‘77 at Clinton High School (Neal’s graduating class) contributed quite a bit. There was just such a community outpouring.”
Earlier this week, Chris and his entire family, including mother Sheila, older brother Rick and younger sister Kylie, met with Ray Jordan, executive director of the Expo Center, and other Expo Center officials to talk through the function of the AED and watch a video on its proper use.
“You’ve just taken the first important step in possibly saving a life — a loved one, friend, neighbor could be saved from sudden cardiac arrest by using the Heartstart home defibrillator,” the woman on the video stated. “And in the process, you become part of something larger — the movement to bring defibrillators from the hospital emergency room to the places where they are most likely to be needed.”
More than 70 percent of cardiac events take place at the home. The defibrillator offers an easy-to-use, reliable and relatively maintenance-free method of potentially saving a life. The equipment assesses the heartbeat and literally talks the user through the process. AEDs detect abnormal heart rhythms in a victim and will administer a shock only if necessary.
The equipment has now been centrally placed in the facility, in the large hallway between Heritage and Prestage halls. It has a battery life of four years and pads are good for up to two years. They require replacement upon use.
“An AED can increase the chances of surviving sudden cardiac arrest by 70 percent. For every minute that passes after a heart attack, the chances of survival decrease by 7 to 10 percent,” Daughtry previously told commissioners, echoing the literature he read and the research he conducted, with his father’s help, to bring the project to fruition. “An AED is simple to use and is fully automated with voice commands, nearly eliminating any possibility of user error.”
“It will tell you what to do,” Sheila added this week as she and her son explained the equipment to Expo officials.
Sudden cardiac arrest is just that — sudden, and without warning. It occurs when the electrical system of the heart essentially short circuits, causing an abnormal rhythm called ventricular fibrillation. Within seconds, blood ceases to circulate and the victim loses consciousness. Without blood flow, brain death starts in a matter of minutes.
The majority of sudden cardiac arrest victims have no previous symptoms of heart disease. That includes Neal.
Chris, a rising junior at Clinton High School, is a member of Boy Scout Troop 27, representing Graves Memorial Presbyterian Church. Along with the Boy Scouts, Daughtry is involved in Clinton High as a member of the marching band, Spring concert band and the Science Club. He has been active in the Boy Scouts with Troop 27 since he was 7 years old.
Jordan was first contacted by Chris and Sheila, who said they believed visitors to the Expo Center would benefit from having the potentially life-saving device available. They inquired as to whether the venue, which regularly hosts programs and events that host hundreds of people, had an AED should it be needed by someone experiencing a heart attack. The facility did not, Jordan informed them at the time.
Chris said he wanted to see that change for a facility that hosts so many public and private events. He had previously attended academic banquets at the Expo Center with his parents and Neal noticed there were no AEDs, sparking the conversation.
“(Rick) had put one in our church at home,” Chris said of his brother’s similar project at Garland Baptist Church. “We just figured (the Expo Center) really needed one.”
This week, Jordan said the Expo Center is only the third county building outfitted with an AED and expressed his gratitude for the Eagle Scout project. Jordan said the venue hosted 321 events in the past year, which included nearly 70,000 people all together.
“He felt that a life could likely be saved if an AED were on-site and the staff trained in its proper use in the event of an emergency,” said Jordan, noting no expense on the county’s part.
“It’s very admirable for this young man to be thinking about this,” added Emergency Management director Ronald Bass. “It’s a known fact that early defibrillation does save lives, and we support these efforts.”
Jordan lauded the project, which took on a much deeper meaning with the loss of Neal, described at the time of his passing as a “soft spoken man with a great love for his family and friends.” As they huddled around the new AED installation, Chris and his family said the hope is that the equipment never has to be used, but is available should it be necessary.
“It’s always there,” said Sheila.
Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.