ST PETER — Joe Thayer wants to save lives.
He’s a sophomore at Gustavus Adolphus College who someday wants to be a doctor like his father, but that’s not the kind of lifesaving he’s got in mind. At least, not yet.
He’s talking about the fact that at any time one of his fellow Gusties, or a faculty or staff member, or a visiting parent or community member could drop to the ground from a heart attack or cardiac arrest.
Thayer knows something can be done that could potentially help those people, and he’s spent an awful lot of time doing everything in his power to prevent a tragedy from happening on campus.
On the way into the college’s cafeteria there is, mounted to the wall, an automatic external defibrillator (those machines used to shock a person’s heart back into normal rhythm). It’s there because of Joe Thayer.
So are three others around campus.
He doesn’t have a story you might expect from a guy driven to outfit the campus with lifesaving devices. In other words, his grandfather or best friend didn’t die from a heart attack and drove him to do this to save someone else from suffering the same fate. Thayer just saw a need and wanted to help. And then he got the perfect excuse to devote some real time to it.
He noticed there weren’t enough AED machines on campus during fall semester. Then, in spring semester, he took a class called public discourse. The class required him to take on a public-service project, something to advocate for. For Thayer, choosing a project was simple.
Initially, he wanted to simply relocate some of the college’s existing AEDs. Some of them were in rooms that, when it’s past regular office hours, the devices are locked in offices until the next morning when they open again.