Nonprofit seeks donations to replace destroyed AED on Bluffton Trail

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A Lowcountry nonprofit is hoping to replace an automated external defibrillator on the New River Linear Trail which it says was “destroyed due to apparent reckless bullet damage.”

The Bluffton Township Fire District said it discovered the damage during its monthly inspection of AEDs installed in public places around the city.

Partnerships between the city and the Hilton Head Island-based Arrhythmia Alliance have provided more than 70 of the medical devices used to revive people with sudden cardiac arrest, according to the nonprofit.

The Rhythm Alliance is asking the public for donations to replace the ACN, which the District Fire Department has said has been shot down in the past three weeks. The alliance said all donations will go to its “AA Defibs Save Lives campaign to ensure Bluffton stays HeartSafe”.

“We cannot allow the reckless destruction of lifesaving equipment to be the reason an innocent person loses their life because an AED is not available,” said Francesca Lobban, executive director of the Arrhythmia Alliance. “We are desperate to be able to raise enough funds to replace this AED in a matter of days.”

Lobban said that “the AEDs donated by the alliance to Bluffton have already saved at least four lives that would otherwise have been lost due to sudden cardiac arrest.”

The Fire District said the Bluffton Police Department is investigating the shooting. Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call 843-706-4550.

“When these devices are damaged or stolen, it puts our community at risk,” the fire department said.

In 2019, the alliance had to replace a pair of AEDs that were stolen over Memorial Day weekend that year. The aircraft were located at the New River Linear Trail and the Alljoy public dock.

The alliance said residents, businesses and anonymous donors have helped raise funds to replace stolen devices.

“Our fundraisers and donors have worked so hard to help us make Bluffton Heart Safe with the AED placement, which is the one thing that will save a life from sudden cardiac arrest,” Lobban said. “Sudden cardiac arrest can happen at any time and at any age. It’s not a heart attack; it is a sudden and unexpected death due to the electrical beating of the heart (heartbeat) in a chaotic manner.

“The only thing that will save the person is the use of an AED (and) CPR. CPR alone will only provide a 9% chance of survival; with the use of an AED, their survival increases to over 50%. Every minute that passes without the use of an AED to return the heart to a normal rate reduces the chance of survival by 10%.

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