A Louisiana nonprofit group is working ensure that life-saving medical equipment is available to young athletes at sports facilities and parks throughout Union County.
Grayson's Army Foundation, founded by Dale and (El Dorado native) Michelle Temple, is on a mission to raise awareness about sudden cardiac arrest and undetected heart conditions -- issues, some fatal, that have been increasingly reported among young athletes in recent years.
Michelle met with members of the El Dorad-Union County Recreation Commission on March 3 and said GAF aims to deploy Automatic External Defibrillators (AEDs) at sports fields/facilities and parks in Union County.
She announced that a meeting to discuss the matter is set for 5 p.m. Wednesday on the third floor of the Union County Courthouse.
Michelle said community and civic leaders, educators, medical professionals, coaches and more will discuss plans and ideas on how to raise money to deploy AEDs at area sports facilities, including public ball fields and parks.
The meeting is open to the public.
GAF was born out of tragedy.
Named for their late son, Grayson "Gray" Lane Temple, the Temples founded GAF in 2022, several months after Grayson passed away at the age of 16 from a cardiac arrhythmia.
At 6 feet, 2 inches tall and 230 pounds, Grayson had grown up playing sports, including football, baseball and basketball.
He was also an avid outdoorsman who enjoyed hunting and fishing and was an active member of the homeless ministry and cooking team at his church.
Grayson was the picture of health, his mother Michelle said.
Days before Grayson's death, Michelle, an LPN with a background in home health and rehab nursing, said she had noticed that her son appeared to be unusually tired and was sleeping more than normal.
After a couple of days home from school with what Grayson called a "stomach bug," Michelle checked his blood pressure and noted that his heart rate was elevated.
A further check and a listen to his heart with a stethoscope detected an irregular heartbeat, or arrhythmia.
The Temples immediately made an appointment for Grayson to see a pediatric cardiologist.
Four days later, Grayson was admitted directly into the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit with atrial flutter, a heart rhythm disorder in which the heart's upper chambers -- atria -- beat too fast.
Following three days of life-saving measures, Grayson went into cardiac arrest and, sadly, passed away Dec. 8, 2021.
A genetic test revealed that Grayson was genetically predisposed to a cardiac arrhythmia.
His official cause of death was myocarditis, the third leading cause of death for student-athletes in the U.S., Michelle told complex commissioners.
An athlete herself, Michelle, who now lives in Baton Rouge, said she grew up playing softball in El Dorado, starting at Neel Park and moving on the El Dorado-Union County Recreation Complex after the facility was built in the mid-1980s.
While Arkansas law requires that AEDs be placed in public and private schools and colleges and universities around the state, Michelle noted that AEDs are not available in facilities such as the EUCRC.
"We're looking at deploying AEDs throughout the county -- the police departments, fire departments, the (Boys and Girls Club of El Dorado), the complex, (Smackover City Park), everywhere," she said.
"We're just trying to protect citizens and students," she added.
Greg Harrison, co-chairman of the EUCRCC, said the group previously discussed placing AEDs at the complex.
"And it's something that I feel like should be a top priority for us," Harrison said.
Harrison said that studies have also shown that one in every 300 children has an undetected heart condition.
A youth softball and baseball coach, Harrison talked about his own recent medical scare during a game.
Harrison said he suffered a seizure and, fortunately, the mother of a player on his team was a nurse who was able to immediately render aid.
Also fresh on the minds of the group was Buffalo Bills' safety Damar Hamlin, who suffered a cardiac arrest during a game against the Cincinatti Bengals on Jan. 2.
Hamlin collapsed on the field after making a tackle.
Medical teams deployed an AED and administered CPR for several minutes before Hamlin was transported to the hospital.
He was released nine days later. An official cause of the cardiac arrest has not been made public.
Michelle said Hamlin sustained blunt force trauma to the chest during the tackle, which may have occurred "just as his heart was getting ready to recharge."
"That's very rare," she said.
Another goal of GAF is teaching CPR and changing disturbing statistics about bystander responses to medical emergencies.
One such stat says that ethnic groups and women of color are the least likely groups to receive bystander CPR, Michelle said.
She demonstrated how an AED works. The device provided automated instructions.
"Anyone can use it. You don't need medical training. You turn it on and it tells you what to do," she said
With the size of the complex, she suggested at least three AEDs would be needed in strategic points throughout the complex grounds.
Precautions can be taken for placement to guard against theft of and tampering with the device, she told commissioners.
Michelle quoted price ranges of $660 for a basic AED unit, which does not come with a screen, to a "top-of-the-line" model for $800 that comes with such features as an alarm, GPS for easy location, an automated 911 call and more.
"It does no good to have them locked up in a concession stand somewhere," she said. "Our foundation would like to donate at least one and raise the money to deploy AEDs throughout Union County."
El Dorado City Council Member and complex Commissioner Frank Hash inquired about liability for using the AEDs during a medical emergency and Michelle and Commissioner Keith Smith said citizens are covered under the state's Good Samaritan law.
The law says that anyone "who offers emergency care in good faith to a person who is suffering or appears to be suffering from (sudden cardiac arrest) is immune from civil liability."
Michelle also said that if a medical professional identifies himself as such while offering assistance during a medical emergency, he is no longer protected by the Good Samaritan law.
For more information about GAF, call Michelle at 225-788-0021 or send an email to [email protected].