Local News

Monday, Aug 23 2010 04:40 PM

Mother donates defibrillator to school in daughter's memory

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    By Sean Work / The Californian

    Mark Storace Sr. of the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association demonstrates a heart defibrillator that was donated to Rosedale Middle School on Monday.

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    By Sean Work / The Californian

    Principal Becky Devahl helps student Emily Day find her class at Rosedale Middle School on Monday. This was Devahl's first school day as principal.

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    By Sean Work / The Californian

    From left to right, Ciana Masala, Jessica Hansen, Tim Doolittle and Michael Watson work on designing covers for their notebooks in a computer and technology class at Rosedale Middle School on Monday. It was the first day of school for public schools in the area.

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BY JORGE BARRIENTOS, Californian staff writer jbarrientos@bakersfield.com

Corinne Ruiz could see her daughter, a former cheerleader, doing cartwheels from heaven Monday.

"'Go mom! I knew you could do it,'" Ruiz said her daughter, Olivia Hoff, was probably saying.

Olivia died six years ago at age 14 of sudden cardiac arrest. She suffered, without anyone's knowledge until it was too late, from Long QT Syndrome, a heart disorder that silently kills thousands nationwide every year.

After her death, it became Ruiz's goal to inform as many people as possible about heart syndromes affecting kids and also get Automatic External Defibrillators -- a device that helps increase chances of survival during sudden cardiac arrest -- in schools throughout Kern County.

Olivia's death could have been prevented with proper education, evaluations and the defibrillators, she argues.

On Monday, the first day of school, she donated an AED to Rosedale Middle School, where Olivia once attended. Rosedale became one of the first (and possibly the first) public schools in Kern to have one on campus.

"I feel so happy -- so happy," Ruiz said, choking up.

A presentation took place outside the school while instruction took place inside for the first time this school year. More than a dozen Rosedale Union School District officials and school board members, heart groups, Hall Ambulance officials and family members watched on as the school accepted the AED.

Mark Storace, the Sacramento chapter president of the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association, donated the AED to Ruiz, who then asked Rosedale to accept it.

John Mendiburu, Rosedale's superintendent, said the school and district were "forever grateful" Ruiz chose Rosedale Middle as the means to keep Olivia's memory alive.

The AED, Storace said, is so easy to use a child could maneuver it. The orange box, which looks like a toolbox, comes with pictures on how to use the AED and speaks commands like, "Place electrodes."

"Don't be afraid to use this and save a life," Storace told the audience.

It's Ruiz's mission, she said, to get the AEDs in all Kern County schools.

"On to the next one," she said following the Rosedale presentation.

To read more about Olivia, and Ruiz's mission to get AEDs in schools here, GO HERE.

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