The Main Stream

Sep 27, 2010 7:09 PM

Family using tragedy to make a difference

TUCSON - A family who lost their loved one 5 years ago, took the tragedy and heartache and turned it into a cause to help others.

At 42, Steven Gootter was a healthy, athletic man, but on a walk with his dog he collapsed.

"He was so full of life that it just caught us all so, we weren't prepared obviously," said Steven's sister Shari Gootter.

Steven died due to Sudden Cardiac Death which kills a thousand people a day; more than AIDs or cancers combined.

"We were cheated. We lost him way too young and so it's been a tremendous loss but we channeled our grief and our energies into the foundation," said Steven's sister Claudine Messing.

Steven's family started the Steven M. Gootter Foundation, which has raised more than $1.5 million to help prevent other families from going through the same loss.

"If someone collapses from sudden cardiac arrest there is only one way that we are going to be able to save their lives - begin by pressing on their chest, giving chest compressions, and having an AED available," said senior director of development of the Sarver Heart Center, Clint McCall.

The Gootters give AEDs to schools, and places where large groups of people gather. It is a device that sends shocks to the heart to restart a heartbeat.

They recently provided the Museum of Contemporary Art with one.

"We hope we never have to use it but it's really wonderful to know that it's here," said president of board of directors of the museum Randi Dorman.

If someone drops to the ground, doctors say anyone can use an AED if they push the power button and follow the instructions commanded by the device.

In addition, they recruit and retain a physician-scientist in the field of Sudden Cardiac Death for the Sarver Heart Center. It is all in an effort to prevent others from their pain.

"It's a sense of goodness, it's a sense of okay here's this horrible thing that happened to us and we are going to move mountains to make sure that another family doesn't suffer and loose someone that meant so much to them," said McCall.

"It's making the best possible situation out of a terrible situation and it takes a great strength of character to do that," said Dorman.

"I would like to think that he is proud of what we are doing today and pleased that we are able to give back in a way that he always would have," said Messing.

The average AED costs $2,000.
For more information go to http://stevenmgootterfoundation.org.

For an instructional video on how to use an AED go to www.heart.arizona.edu

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