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National program to have emergency plan in schools for sudden cardiac arrest started in Wisconsin

A national program started in Wisconsin works with schools to have an emergency plan in case of sudden cardiac arrest.
Posted at 5:04 PM, Jan 03, 2023

Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest in Monday night's game against the Cincinnati Bengals. In a cardiac emergency, timing is a matter of life or death.

Paramedics quickly began performing CPR on Damar Hamlin and used an automatic external defibrillator (AED) on the football player. Those actions got his heart beating again.

A national program started in Wisconsin works with schools to have an emergency plan in case of sudden cardiac arrest.

More than two decades after the tragic death of 17-year-old Adam Lemel, change continues across the country. The Whitefish Bay basketball player collapsed and died in 1999 from cardiac arrest during a game.

"From this came the idea of having schools prepared for cardiac emergencies," Project ADAM Medical Director Dr. Anoop Singh said.

Adam's father, in partnership with Children's Wisconsin, created Project ADAM, which stands for "Automated Defibrillators in Adam's Memory."

In an emergency situation, medical personnel say having an AED can save a life.

"There's been over 200 lives saved through direct and indirect actions from Project ADAM," Dr. Singh said.

Dr. Singh says the goal of the program is to get people prepared to respond. This includes looking for warning signs like fainting or dizziness with exercise, excessive fatigue, and chest pain or discomfort with exercise.

"Recognizing these signs is step one, calling for emergency help. Step two, being a bystander that can intervene by doing CPR. Third step, that's followed by having a defibrillator available," Dr. Singh said.

In Wisconsin, more than 450 schools have gone through Project ADAM training and have become a "heart-safe school." More than 4,000 schools nationwide are prepared to reduce the risk of sudden death. Dr. Singh says having all interventions in place can buy precious time.

"Every minute without all those interventions decreases someone's chances of survival by 7 percent," Dr. Singh said.

While so much has changed for the better since 1999, Dr. Singh says expanding to communities and sports clubs is the next step.

Correction: In a previous version of this report, Adam Lemel's name was spelled incorrectly. This has since been fixed.

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