Youth Football: Costa Mesa plays it safe

Daily Pilot

***FOR THE RECORD: Costa Mesa AYSO Region 120 purchased and installed an automated external defibrillator at the Farm Sports Complex in December. The story “Costa Mesa plays it safe” in Saturday’s edition stated Costa Mesa Pop Warner was the first youth sports organization in the city to purchase an AED.***

Steve Mensinger hopes that the Costa Mesa Pop Warner youth football program never has to use it.

The portable automated external defibrillator the Eagles recently bought comes in a box about the size of a lunch box.

It also has the power to save someone's life.

Costa Mesa Pop Warner bought the device in April, spending around $2,000. Coaches will be trained to use it, although its operation appears simple, with an on-off switch and another button used to administer the shock if a player, parent or coach went into cardiac arrest.

The unit gives audio instructions and also can determine if the shock is actually needed.

Mensinger, the president of Costa Mesa Pop Warner as well as the Estancia Sports Boosters Club, said the device will be at all home practices and games the Eagles play when their season begins in a couple of months.

"Eventually, our goal is to equip every team with one," said Mensinger, whose son Hunter, 11, is in the Pop Warner program.

Jill Stack, the director of publicity for Estancia Sports Boosters, has been pushing for the purchase. She is passionate about the AED and the safety benefits it provides.

One of the causes of cardiac arrest is ventricular fibrillation. According to figures released by the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Assn., if early defibrillation is provided within the first minute of "VF" cases, the chance is 90% that the victim's life can be saved. After that, the survival rate drops 10% with each minute. If CPR and AEDs are used within five minutes of collapse, as many as 30-50% of victims would likely survive.

"It's definitely a proactive safety thing," Stack said. "It could be used on coaches, parents, people in the stands."

For Mensinger, it's also an issue that hits close to home with his friend who he works with on the Costa Mesa Planning Commission, chairman Jim Righeimer.

Righeimer has a daughter who is a cheerleader for Costa Mesa Pop Warner, and last year he was walking around at Estancia High with a little backpack.

"I said, Jim what are you doing with that?' " Mensinger said. "He goes, 'It's an AED.' I didn't know it was that small."

Righeimer's younger daughter, Rebecca, had a rare heart defect called long QT syndrome. She passed away in 2003 at the age of 4. Righeimer's other daughter, Ellie, also has long QT syndrome, hence the backpack.

"That was really the defining issue for me," Mensinger said. "Rebecca died in his arms. I was thinking, 'I wouldn't want to go through that.' "

Costa Mesa Pop Warner is the first youth sports organization in the city with an AED. Mensinger and Stack would also love to bring one to Estancia High, especially with children at the school. Cole Mensinger will be a sophomore at Estancia in the fall and Riley Stack will be a junior, and they're both football players.

Of the 29 school districts in Orange County, 10 have at least one defibrillator, according to an article in the Orange County Register earlier this year. Newport Mesa Unified School District is one of the 19 districts that doesn't.

Steve Mensinger said he has spoken with Supt. Jeffrey Hubbard about the issue and the district appears to be ready to institute a defibrillator program. District spokeswoman Laura Boss confirmed that district officials have discussed purchasing defibrillators.

"The district is evaluating options," Boss said. "We're looking into the feasibility of it."

Permanent defibrillators might even be more pricey than the portable one purchased by Costa Mesa Pop Warner.

But Steve Mensinger thinks it's a small price to pay for possibly saving a child's life.

"Once you get into the issue, you realize that there are a lot of cardiac arrests everyday that could be stopped if you have these devices," he said. "Or at least, the person has a better chance of surviving."

Sean Patterson is a coach at Costa Mesa Pop Warner and his wife, Yumi, is a board member.

They also have two daughters who are cheerleaders in the program and their son, Sho, played football for the program and will be a junior at Estancia this fall.

To them, the device in the little red box also equals something else invaluable: peace of mind.

"We actually started discussing this over two years ago," Yumi Patterson said. "I'm just glad that between when we started discussing this and now, nothing happened. To see it actually in our hands now, it brings a lot of peace. I'm just excited to know that it's here in our hands."

AED What: Automated external defibrillatorHow to use it: Its operation appears simple, with an on-off switch and another button used to administer the shock if a player, parent or coach went into cardiac arrest. The unit gives audio instructions and also can determine if the shock is actually needed.Of note: Costa Mesa Pop Warner is the first youth sports organization in the city with an AED.

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