Senate Vote May be Final Hurdle in Parents' Journey
Janet's Law may face final vote before the end of June.
Jim Zilinski's vow made nearly six years ago when his daughter Janet died to do all he could to prevent another child from dying from sudden cardiac arrest is heading toward resolution.
After unanimous approval by the Senate Budgets and Appropriations Committee this week, a bill championed by Zilinski and his wife Karen, of Warren, that requires placement of automated external defibrillators at schools faces one final vote in the full Senate before going to Gov. Chris Christie to become law.
The bill, known as "Janet's Law," is named in memory of the Ziliniski's daughter who died from sudden cardiac arrest while participating in a cheerleading practice.
“I made a vow to my daughter on the night she passed that I would do whatever I could do to protect the children of New Jersey,” Zilinski said. “I can now almost say to her that I kept that vow.
"It will be one of the greatest things I have ever accomplished in my life,” he said.
Although Zilinski said he is optimistic about the law's passage, his familiarity with the vagarities of the legislature learned over the years pushing for the bill have taught him there's still ways things can go wrong, sending Janet's Law back to the starting gate.
Karen Zilinski testified before the committee hearing that while fighting for the law, she’d considered quitting several times as it would be easier to just worry about her son Jimmy’s school.
But in the end, "her heart wouldn’t allow it and so here we are (in Trenton) fighting for this law. Through many tears, sleepless nights and hard work, “we continually picked each other up and kept going when one of us needed the extra help,” Karen said of the long and emotional process.
The next Senate voting session is at the end of June and the Zilinskis are hoping it will be passed and then presented to Gov. Christie for signing before July 1st. They have been asking anyone they can reach to support the measure by contacting Senate leaders to urge them to post Janet’s Law (S-157) for a full vote.
Janet’s Law, which cleared the State Assembly at the end of May by a unanimous vote by 78 members, requires every public and private, K-12 school in New Jersey have at least one Automated External Defibrillator (AED). AEDs are an easy to use medical device that restarts the heart during Sudden Cardiac Arrest. The AED must be displayed in a central location and be easily accessible. The AED must also be made available during after-school hours, if the school is being used for any athletic event or school activity.
It would further require that there be at least five trained responders at each school, that the school have an emergency action plan for dealing with a cardiac event and that signs be placed in the school leading to the AED.
Since The Janet Fund was created in 2006, the group has donated over 100 AEDs to New Jersey schools, youth camps, youth sports organizations and family service organizations. They placed the first AEDs on youth playing fields in New Jersey and continue to advocate for their widespread placement at schools and youth athletic events.