Tom Fleischer was a huge fan of local high school sports.
During football season, hardly a weekend passed when he wasn't in the stands or on the sidelines. Often, the Rock Hill orthopedic physician was voluntarily helping injured athletes.
"We could call him up at any time of the night and he would meet us at the emergency room," Northwestern High athletic director Bill Warren said.
When Fleischer died in January, his wife, Jane, decided the best way to memorialize him was to continue his work to keep students safe. She asked friends to forgo sending flowers and instead donate to the newly created Fleischer Foundation.
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Last month, she spent $17,000 in donations on 15 automated external defibrillators, which she gave to the Rock Hill school district on Thursday - Tom's 58th birthday.
"The family wanted to do something in his memory that he was interested in," Fleischer said.
An automated external defibrillator, or AED, is a device with two paddles that deliver an electric shock to get the heart pumping regularly.
Advocates nationwide have been pushing to get the devices in wider use. They cite statistics that show the survival rate after cardiac arrest jumps 30 to 45 percent if a defibrillator is used. The rate increases even more when CPR is combined with defibrillation.
That's why Fleischer wants the foundation to raise enough money to get AEDs to as many schools as possible.
In researching local districts, Fleischer, who coordinates York Technical College's nursing program, said AEDs "were shockingly absent in most schools."
She hopes the gift is "a shot in the arm" that leads to a push to get more devices - which cost from $1,000 to $1,500 each.
"Hopefully, they'll never have to be used," she said.
Rock Hill school officials plan to divvy up the devices among middle and high schools.
All of the district's schools have at least one AED, Associate Superintendent Luanne Kokolis said. Now middle schools will have three and high schools will have three or four.
Middle and high school nurses will have a mobile AED, Kokolis said. There also will be one for sports teams to take to away games.
With the gift, Northwestern High now has four AEDs.
"We're going to place it in an area to be able to create a quicker response time," Principal James Blake said.
Fleischer wants to expand the foundation's efforts to include York County's other three school systems as well as Chester and Lancaster counties. Her husband had treated patients from all three counties since 1983.
"It's our wish that every person who has contact with a student be CPR-certified and know how to use an AED," she said.
Donations for the Fleischer Foundation can be send to:
P.O. Box 3186
Rock Hill, SC 297332