There are now 25 new AEDs (automated external defibrillators) installed in Wilton, thanks to the generosity of MaryGrace and Mark Gudis of Westport. The Gudis family partnered with Norwalk Hospital to donate 100 AEDs for distribution in the towns of Wilton, Norwalk, New Canaan, Westport, and Weston. An AED is a portable device that delivers electrical shock to a heart that is not beating with the intent of restoring normal electrical rhythm so that the heart will beat again.

The AEDs were installed in several public places around town (including Ambler Farm, Schenck’s Island, and Wilton School and town fields) and a presentation was made by the Gudises and Norwalk Hospital personnel to Wilton Officials. Pictured above, from left are:  Steve Pierce, Wilton Parks and Recreation director; Mike Rickard, Norwalk Hospital EMS, MaryGrace Gudis; first selectman Lynne Vanderslice; Mark Gudis; Matt Soicher, Norwalk Hospital EMS director; Wendy Fratino,  president, Wilton Volunteer Ambulance Corps; Dr. Kevin Smith, superintendent of schools; and Wilton Police Department’s Capt. Thomas Conlan. Wilton emergency response teams, including Wilton Police, Fire and EMS, collaborated in this effort.

A near tragedy in the town of Westport earlier this year underscored the importance of having AEDs accessible in public places. Norwalk Hospital trustee Mark Gudis helped save the life of a 17-year-old student who experienced sudden cardiac arrest at a sporting event at Staples High School. Fortunately, Mark, a Staples parent, had an AED in his car and took immediate action while athletic trainers and two parents performed CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation) and called 9-1-1. The student made a full recovery.

Following this incident, Mark said, “It was apparent that we need more AEDs in our schools, on our athletic fields and in our community centers and we were pleased to take the lead in this effort.” Staples High School’s Service League of Boys, including the young man whose life was saved, assembled and labeled all the AEDs and exterior cabinets for distribution to the local towns. “We appreciate the support and efforts of the Staples Service League of Boys. This was a major project and is a great example of the community coming together for an important cause,” said MaryGrace.

“We hope this initiative will inspire other communities to take the necessary steps to help ensure that there are more Heart Safe communities,” Mark added.

The Gudises and Norwalk Hospital were recently awarded with the American Red Cross Hero Award for their recent initiative and pledge to develop more public-private partnerships within the communities.

Sudden cardiac arrest is a leading cause of death in the United States, affecting nearly 400,000 people each year, according to Matt Soicher, director of EMS at Norwalk Hospital.  It can happen anywhere and to people of all ages; less than 1 in 10 survive. Sudden cardiac arrest occurs when the electrical system of the heart malfunctions, resulting in very irregular and potentially fatal heart rhythm. Using AEDs and performing CPR immediately (within a few minutes) can greatly impact the victim’s chance of survival.

Norwalk Hospital is a progressive, patient-centered regional teaching hospital serving residents of southwestern Connecticut and adjacent New York. The 328-bed acute care, not-for-profit hospital offers cardiovascular, cancer, orthopedic, neurologic and digestive disease care with advanced diagnostics, innovative therapies and state-of-the-art surgery. The hospital is supported by its very generous community through donations to the Norwalk Hospital foundation.

Norwalk Hospital is part of the Western Connecticut Health Network and one of the networks three member hospitals, including Danbury Hospital and New Milford Hospital, as well as their physician groups and affiliated organizations.