The Free Press, Mankato, MN

November 1, 2012

Gustavus student puts lots of heart into defibrillator project

By Robb Murray
The Free Press

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.

“I’d hate to see someone drop right outside one of these locked offices,” Thayer said.

After he had worked on that for a while, he got word from the college’s office of security that the college would be adding four more.

“I sat back from my computer and was like, ‘I’m done,’” he said. Of course, he wasn’t done.

His class ended. His work did not. In fact,  today will be the next step in the evolution of the college’s new commitment to having AEDs: teaching people how simple they are to use.

From 12:30-3 p.m. Gustavus will host what Thayer has dubbed “No Fear CPR,” an event aimed to train 1,000 people in bystander CPR and AEDs.

“Joe’s enthusiasm and committment to providing a safe campus is what has promoted this program,” said Ray Thrower, director security at Gustavus. “We’re really excited about this and we’re really exicited about (No Fear CPR).”

Thayer’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. He received the Heart Safe Champion Award from the American Heart Association. And he learned  Gustavus today will be named the first Heart Safe college campus in the Midwest