Lyn Shamban, AEDLyn Shamban with an AED that her donation made possible. / Jake Bentzinger photo

When Buffalo Bills football player Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field during a football game in January, Lyn Shamban was happy to learn he would survive because of the quick use of a defibrillator. 

But her reaction was bittersweet: In 2010 Shamban’s husband, Steve, died after cardiac arrest at his gym, because no one could find the defibrillator. A physician later told Shamban her husband likely would have survived had the equipment been used.

Shamban, who lives in East Arlington, has been trying to change the law about the use of defibrillators ever since. While she has so far been unsuccessful,  she can claim a victory for the town. 

AEDs in town parks

Thanks to her efforts, the town’s Department of Recreation has approved installing automated external defibrillators, or AEDs, in the town’s public parks and outdoor recreational spaces. The town is piloting climate-controlled AED units at some of Arlington’s most popular outdoor spaces, including Thorndike Field, Magnolia Park and the Summer Street sports complex.

AEDs are medical devices used to help someone experiencing a heart attack. They work by using two electrically charged paddles to deliver an electric shock to the victim, which can help to restore normal heart function.

High AED availability is critical to saving lives; according to the Red Cross, the average 911 response time is eight to 12 minutes, and for every minute that passes after a person experiences cardiac arrest, the chance of survival decreases by 10 percent.

Shamban, who worked as a learning specialist for the Newton-based Gateways: Access to Jewish Education until her retirement 10 years ago, lives in a two-family home with her daughter, son-in-law and two grandsons.

Death in 2010

On Nov. 18, 2010, Shamban’s husband, Steve, 61, suffered cardiac arrest in his gym in Norwood and died. They had been married for 36 years.

Weeks after her husband’s death, Shamban learned from the ER doctor on call that the gym staff could not find the AED in the building, which was required by law. The ER doctor told Shamban that her husband would have had a good chance of surviving if an AED had been used in time.

“As you can imagine, this realization added to the shock and grief that our family was already experiencing,” Shamban recounted to YourArlington in an interview. “It was intolerable.” 

Shamban said she immediately felt compelled to begin working on changing Massachusetts’ AED law in health clubs and gyms. It’s been a long and often frustrating  journey. A revised bill, which is still waiting to be passed, would require that AEDs in health clubs be “secure, easily accessible; well-marked, publicized, known among trained staff and near a communication line.” Involved in the legislation is state Rep. Sean Garballey, D-Arlington.

Heightened awareness

“As I research AED accessibility, I have discovered that it is often the individuals who have suffered losses because of the lack of available AEDs who have succeeded in improving accessibility,” Shamban observed. “Experiencing a personal tragedy heightens awareness of issues that may not have come to one’s attention otherwise.”

Shamban recalls her mixed emotions following Hamlin’s successful resuscitation and recovery.  The event helped her realize that she wasn’t ready to give up efforts to increase AED availability but wasn't sure what to do next.

After further research, she learned about climate-controlled AEDs suitable for use in outdoor locations. She was enthusiastic about the idea of installing these AEDs in Arlington parks but had never sent a proposal to Arlington Town Hall before and was unsure about the process.

Through a friend, Shamban was connected to Sue Doctrow, vice chair of the Community Preservation Act Committee, who guided her through the process of introducing her proposal. That plea reached the desk of Town Manager Sandy Pooler on Jan. 12, and he forwarded it to both recreation Director Joe Connelly and town Fire Chief Kevin Kelley on the same day.

Over the next several months, Connelly worked with the fire department and police dispatch and, with Pooler's blessing, made Shamban's proposal a reality.

Praises Connelly

Connelly’s “proactive approach, energy and leadership on the AED project has lifted my spirits and heartened me,” Shamban said. “I hope to continue working with Joe in whatever way would be helpful in increasing the number of climate-controlled AEDs at Arlington fields and parks.”

She has donated an amount that pays for the first two AEDs plus their installation.

"I offered to donate the first two AEDs because of my eagerness to get my proposal off the ground," she wrote in an email June 14.

The AEDs are stored in bright yellow boxes near existing electrical lines in Arlington parks and are clearly marked with the words “life saving AED.”

The boxes are electronically locked to protect the units from vandalism and tampering, and they require an access code to open. The code can be acquired only by calling 911 and requesting access for that specific box. The call also has the benefit of notifying first responders and telling them exactly where the incident is taking place. 911 dispatchers can also talk residents through the process of using the AED over the phone if they are unfamiliar with it.

Full rollout expected

Initial reception to the pilot program in Town Hall has been very positive, and Connelly isn’t anticipating obstacles to a full rollout. The pilot program intentionally chose locations with existing electrical lines to avoid costs associated with laying new underground cables, but a full rollout may require this additional expense.

The town is in the process of evaluating the cost of the full rollout, and Connelly continues to coordinate with Kelley and the fire department, which will maintain the units, as well as police dispatch to make climate-controlled AEDs in Arlington a reality.


Meanwhile, community organizations, such as the Arlington Soccer Club, have made donations to help cover the costs of the program.

“They were more than happy to help,” Connelly said. “Everyone has just been very, very supportive.”


Connelly highlighted Shamban’s work in getting the program off the ground and providing Town Hall with all of the information they needed to choose the correct units for their use and order them from a supplier.

“I don’t want to take any credit. This is kind of her project that we’re just helping to facilitate,” Connelly said. “She’s just been phenomenal.”

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 This news feature by YourArlington freelance writer Jake Bentzinger was published Friday, June 16, 2023.