Mary Tappe founded AED Access For All in February 2006. In January, the
organization became an affiliate of the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association. Photo by Duane Tinkey
Mary Tappe founded AED Access For All in February 2006. In January, the organization became an affiliate of the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association. Photo by Duane Tinkey

After sitting down to join a Monday afternoon work meeting, Mary Tappe picked up a pen and her heart stopped beating.

"Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is electrical," she said. "It's like a switch was turned off on my heart."

Co-workers, among them a nurse and a new hire who had recently learned the location of the company's automated external defibrillator (AED), delivered two shocks to Tappe's heart and revived her.

Tappe arrested again in 2005 and was saved by an implantable cardioverter defibrillator that had been installed during surgery after her first arrest.

Through discussions with a support group and her mother's suggestion to make the situation more positive, Tappe founded AED Access For All in February 2006 to help increase access to AEDs and inform Iowans about the devices.

The organization's mission statement says: "We will promote the placement, education and use of AEDs in order to increase the survival rate of SCA in Iowa."

Tappe, a two-time survivor, public speaker, CPR certified and a certified CPR instructor, said SCA is the leading cause of death in the United States, claiming approximately 350,000 lives each year. With a defibrillator, "a large percent could be prevented," she said. "Every minute the chance of survival is reduced by 10 percent."

Along with the speaking and training AED Access has done, the organization has set a new goal to ensure that every school in Iowa has an AED and is trained to use it.

"The schools are our first large plan of attack," Tappe said.

The organization is currently collecting data on which schools need the device and raising money. Tappe said the group has applied for several grants, solicited donations and hopes to begin a quarterly fund-raiser this year.

"Urbandale will be our pilot district to get the process down," she said.

When trying to determine where they could get the "biggest bang for (their) buck," AED members decided schools would be the place to start. Schools, especially in rural areas, tend to be the central gathering place, Tappe said.

AED Access has 118 members throughout the state.

"We want to see an AED every- place where we work, play and pray, because that is where we need them," Tappe said.