An 11-year-old Kamloops boy is breathing a little easier at school these days due to a machine that could potentially save his life.
Aberdeen elementary is the first and only school in the Kamloops-Thompson School District that has a permanent defibrillator on site.
It's all thanks to one student who inspired a parent advisory committee to take a proactive measure after his family secured an automated external defibrillator (AED) of its own.
Aberdeen student Mitchell Kopytko was born with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which can lead to sudden cardiac arrest and death.
His father Chad was also diagnosed with the heart condition three years ago, so the Kopytko family knew full well that having an AED meant chances of surviving sudden cardiac arrest would be dramatically improved.
Last year, when they heard that Vancouver company Global Medical Services was holding a contest to give away the $2,000 piece of equipment, Mitchell, his dad, mom Melanie and seven-year-old sister Jorja Daryn, set about to getting it.
Melanie wrote the initial letter to the company stating their case.
"The school that Mitchell attends is not equipped with an AED," she wrote. "I spend much of my day worrying that if he were to have a cardiac incident it would be too late by the time it was recognized and the paramedics were called.
"We have often thought about the benefits of being able to have lifesaving equipment with Mitchell at all times."
The letter and a subsequent online voting contest won the family the AED. But what happened next was a turn of events Melanie hadn't anticipated.
"It started to become clear how tricky it could be having Mitchell cart the machine back and forth to school, the logistics of . . . limited people actually trained on it . . . and what's the legal ramifications if someone else in the school should need an AED?" said Melanie.
The Kopytkos decided to inform the school's PAC about the benefits of an AED. Presenting their case to the council were Alan Vukusic, trauma director at Royal Inland Hospital, and his wife Tamara.
The idea intrigued school principal Anthoney Rempel.
"I think it's a good thing to have because you never know what could happen at any point in time and it could end up being something that, because it's here, we end up saving somebody's life," he said.
Michelle Marginet, school district health and safety manager, told the school that as long as specific people took responsibility for training and the equipment's maintenance, she supported the installation of a defibrillator in the school.
"Sometimes with emergency medicine or first aid it's the situations you don't know that are going to arise," she said. "When (AEDs) are available and they need to be used, they're often very successful."
The PAC went about raising the funds to purchase an AED and now the school is in the process of training staff for its use. The device is so user-friendly, according to Melanie, that her seven-year-old daughter was easily trained.
Having an AED in school is a relief for Mitchell, who doesn't just see it as a life-saving tool for himself but for every student.
"I'm only one person and the school has 400," he said. "So I definitely feel a lot safer to know if someone were to have a cardiac arrest, they would have what they needed to save a life if they needed to."