After her husband died of a cardiac event, this Ridgefield woman makes push for all gyms to have AEDs

Edward Brennan, 50, was a beloved coach and athlete in Ridgefield. He worked out daily until December 2012 when he collapsed in a cardiac event at a Ridgefield health club..

“When my husband collapsed at the gym, there was no AED (automatic external defibrillator), no trained person there to help him,” Suzanne Brennan, his wife, said.

Minutes later, Edward Brennan was dead.

It’s possible that a defibrillator could have saved Brennan at the time. At this time, AEDs are not required a health clubs and gyms around the state, but Suzanne Brennan is making a push to change that.

Eight years after her husband’s death, Brennan is the driving force behind a state legislative bill, that had its measures been in effect at the time of her husband’s incident, could have potentially saved Edward’s life. Senate Bill 110 — proposed by state Sen. Will Haskell (D-Westport) and state Rep. Aimee Berger-Girvalo (D-Ridgefield) — would require all athletic facilities and health clubs in the state to have AEDs on-site with at least one staff member or volunteer trained to use the machine.

Suzanne reached out to several local legislators about the need for the proposed law after her experiences in Ridgefield. She looks at her friends who continue going to the gym and worries. She believes Connecticut can “do better.”

“I think knowing what we know and not doing something about it is unacceptable,” Suzanne said. “It’s indisputable that a place, where people are intentionally raising their heart rates, that it would not be required at the very minimum to have an AED device on-site and a trained staff person.”

The American Heart Association (AHA) indicated cardiac arrest is “a race against the clock.”

An AHA study found the combination of immediate CPR with defibrillation can more than double a victim’s chance of survival but for every minute an individual goes without CPR and defibrillation, survival chances decrease by seven to 10 percent.

Communities with AED programs including CPR and AED training have “achieved survival rates of 40 percent or higher for cardiac arrest victims,” the report said.

Haskell and Girvalo recently co-introduced the bill to the legislature and it is being considered by the Public Health Committee. Connecticut legislation requires AEDs be provided at certain locations across the state including public golf courses and schools, but not at health clubs.

Some health club chains in the state have enacted AED requirements on their own. The Connecticut YMCA and Orangetheory fitness are two franchises that have done so.

Orangetheory Senior Director of Health Science and Research Rachelle Reed said AEDs are required in every club in addition to mandatory training for all coaches. Reed thinks the bill is “a step in the right direction.” Alexandra Hall, YMCA Aquatics and Safety Director said the YMCA implemented a similar rule because AEDs do save lives.

Other states, such as Massachusetts, have adopted similar laws mandating AEDs at public health facilities.

Girvalo said the bill is supported by individuals on both sides of the aisle, she feels optimistic it will move forward for a vote. Haskell said he wouldn’t have necessarily known about the need for such legislation had it not been for Suzanne others wouldn’t have seen the opportunity to reform something that “just makes all the sense in the world.

“It is going to save lives and it is something that must pass the Public Health Committee this year,” Haskell said.