OXFORD, N.S. – Spending two weeks away from school can seem like a lifetime for an eight-year-old, especially when it’s the start of the school year.
“I was sad I missed the first day because it’s fun,” said Brody Kouwenberg. “You get to see your friends and you don’t do much work.”
The Grade 2 student at the Oxford Regional Education Centre was unable to attend the first two weeks of the 2018 school year.
OREC was undergoing repairs and students in Oxford were bussed to Pugwash. Before the first day of school began, the Kouwenberg’s toured the Pugwash school and learned they didn’t have an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) on site.
“They had an open house and they did a walk-through, and when I asked the principal where the AED is they said they didn’t have one,” said Brody’s mom, Jennifer Kouwenberg. “I said, ‘he’s not coming here until you have one.’”
Brody was born with a heart defect that required open heart surgery immediately after he was born. He also had a pacemaker implanted that keeps his heart beating.
If the pacemaker stops, Brody has about three minutes to get it running again before his heart stops beating.
There are two AED’s at OREC, one in the principal’s office and one in the gymnasium.
“They had to get permission to take it out of the Oxford School and put it in the Pugwash school, so it was about two weeks before he was able to go back to school,” said Jennifer.
Brody was surprised to learn that most schools in Nova Scotia don’t have AED’s and wrote a letter expressing his concerns.
“It took me about a week to write,” said Brody. “I made a lot of notes because I didn’t want to forget anything.”
He gave the letter to Tory Rushton late last year, and on April 9, 2019, PC Education Critic Kim Masland introduced an amendment to the Education Act calling for schools in Nova Scotia to have AEDs on site, along with epi-pens and naloxone kits.
Brody was at the provincial legislature when the amendment was introduced.
“They introduced Brody to the legislature while the bill was being introduced and the premier, Stephen McNeil, came up and sat in the gallery with Brody while it was introduced,” said Jennifer.
She said the premier seemed very receptive to the idea of idea having AED’s in every school in Nova Scotia.
“The premier seemed quite hopeful, and he was very impressed with Brody,” said Jennifer. “After we were done at the legislature he invited to him to his office and meet with him.”
Brody likes to collect coins and noticed commemorative coins in the premier’s office, which the premier gave to him. He also went to lunch with Rushton.
“The spring session is done so I think it will have to wait until fall if they hope to pass the bill,” said Jennifer.
AEDs cost between $600 and $900.
“If we have smoke detectors and sprinklers in schools and practice code drills, why not have an AED in place,” said Jennifer. “Something so simple as that could help, not just a kid like Brody, but people visiting the school, including seniors.”
Saving lives is what it’s all about for Brody.
“I want to help people like me,” says Brody. “I don’t want people to die.”