Student's Request Sparks 8 New AEDs in Residence Halls

Addison Salski placed the AED in the pre-installed cabinet on the second floor of Birch Hall.

Feb. 15, 2023 — Addison Salski, an Iowa State student with a heart condition, didn’t have an automated external defibrillator (AED) nearby in her residence hall. She presented this concern during the President Leadership Class in Dec. 2022, and President Wintersteen promptly connected her with the Department of Residence (DOR) and the Department of Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S). They united to install an AED in Salski’s residence hall on Feb. 15.

After evaluating other locations with long travel distances, DOR and EH&S decided to add eight new AEDs in other locations to improve AED accessibility in residence halls.

"When AEDs were first added to residence halls in 2017, they were placed near hall desks for familiarity," said Alex Wiley, a fire and life safety specialist at EH&S. "While this was a good start, one could still be a long way away, like in Addison's case."

February is American Heart Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness of heart conditions and heart health. Salski has been doing that her whole life.

“Heart health is a topic for everyone, even if they are not diagnosed with a heart condition” Salski said. “Knowing how to use an AED, where the nearest one is, and why it is important are topics that need to be talked about more.”

Around the age of two, Salski was diagnosed with idiopathic ventricular tachycardia, which causes a rapid heart rate that, if sustained, may lead to serious problems like fainting, loss of consciousness, or cardiac arrest. It was necessary for her family to obtain an AED, but her parents quickly realized the difficulty of doing so. Insurance plans don’t cover AEDs, which can cost up to $1,500. Salski’s parents saw this as an opportunity to help other families facing similar challenges.

In 2014 Salski’s parents founded Big Dreams for Little Hearts, a non-profit organization that raises money to donate AEDs to children with heart conditions, so that they could help provide peace of mind to other families. Now, Salski spreads that same mission on Iowa State’s campus.

“I knew that someday a student could show up just like me, hoping for that sense of safety and security,” said Salski, who serves as president of Big Dreams for Little Hearts’ board. “I wanted to provide that safety for any university student just as Big Dreams has for over 30 families.”

Salski expressed that having an AED in her residence hall won’t just benefit her in an emergency. An AED can be used in any situation where someone experiences cardiac arrest, which is “just as important for people of any age, with or without a health problem,” she said.

Salski encouraged students who want to improve health and safety on campus that “there is nothing too big, or impossible even, on such a large campus…Iowa State is open and welcoming to new ideas, and when it comes to the health and safety of students, they are more than willing to listen.”


Learn more about the university's AED program here: