Mickayla and Jolene Austin are still students at Phillip Showell Elementary, but they could save someone’s life someday. The 9- and 7-year-old-girls have received service awards for donating an automated external defibrillator (AED) to a Girl Scout campground.
They earned the Jefferson Award for Public Service and one of seven Kohl’s Cares store awards in Delaware.
During emergencies like cardiac arrest, an AED is a hand-held box that delivers an electric shock through the chest, stopping an irregular heartbeat and allowing a normal rhythm to resume. For each minute left untreated, people have greater difficulty recovering.
“It saves people’s lives if they’re having a heart attack or seizure,” Mickayla said.
In spring of 2012, their mother, KarenLynn, took a CPR/AED class and told Mickayla everything she had learned.
“When she got home, I said, ‘Mom I think I want to do it – get involved,’” Mickayla recalled. “I was too young to go with her. I said, ‘Can I donate one?’”
The Austins began studying AED units. Jolene helped with research while KarenLynn and Mickayla planned who to telephone. They talked about how Mickayla should approach each phone call.
Eventually Mickayla spoke to Delaware’s Office of Emergency Medical Services, which donated the AED to her.
“It felt like it was a lot of work. After he said yes, I was excited that I could do it,” Mickayla said.
Mickayla and Jolene presented the AED to Delaware’s only Girl Scout camp in November of 2012. Camp Country Center includes 40 wooded acres in Hockessin, so a portable AED could be rushed across the property in an emergency, rather than awaiting an ambulance.
KarenLynn said the camp director was “all for it. She said, ‘No one ever thought about the safety of these children’” as those girls had.
Later, when she nominated her daughters for the award, KarenLynn didn’t expect to have a winning entry. Unfortunately, Kohl’s only chooses one winner per household, so Mickayla got the honor. But the family won a $50 gift card, and – more importantly – Mickayla found a goal for her Girl Scout Bronze Award. She’ll become a Junior Girl Scout in fall.
There are three Girl Scout camps in Maryland, one of which is big enough to need several AEDs. Mickayla would like to eventually provide AEDs for them all. However, Delaware cannot legally donate the $1200-machines to Maryland, and vice-versa, so they will continue brainstorming a way to support their Maryland sisters.
“We can save people’s lives by donating stuff, like the AED,” Mickayla said.
KarenLynn said this project isn’t just about finishing, but at least paving the way forward.
“You try to encourage the girls the goal is obtainable, whatever you set your mind to. It’s the courage and the determination to try,” said KarenLynn. “It’s a matter of getting people to help her. This is an important thing. …Every little bit counts.”