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Thousands donated after Waukesha teen's unexpected death

Posted at 5:17 PM, Apr 08, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-08 19:09:49-04

Over spring break, a Waukesha teen suddenly collapsed while playing basketball with friends and later died. An undiagnosed heart condition was to blame.

Kai Lermer, 16, was a picture of health. Standing 6-foot-2, he was a three-sport athlete at Waukesha North.

"You'd expect it from someone who wasn't a standout athlete," said Paul Ybarra, Lermer's godfather. "You wouldn't expect it for someone who is 16 and D-I schools are looking at him for track scholarships. It took everyone by surprise."

Ybarra says Kai had Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome. It's a genetic condition that can cause an irregular or abnormally fast heartbeat. He says Kai never showed any symptoms.

"You never expect it to be your kid or your family member or your loved one," Ybarra said. "But when we first got the news he collapsed and rushed him to the hospital, everything was looking good. His body was strong, expected him to pull out and knew there might be some complications."

After a few days, Kai passed away. His family and the community were stunned. While they grieved, some of his friends created a GoFundMe page to try to raise money to pay for the funeral.

They set an initial goal of $5,000 but shattered it. Now, after less than a week, it's more than $30,000, and the family hopes it can use this money to ensure no family has to go through this. They want to install Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) at other Waukesha parks so something like this won't happen to another family.

"Waukesha currently has two in their parks," Ybarra said. "We want to find a way to outfit as many parks as possible in Waukesha. The focus, as his parents said, how can we make sure this doesn't ever happen to another parent, another grandparent, another aunt, uncle, godfather, friend, teammate? If we can stop the next time it happens, prevent it from happening in the future so parents don't have to go through this, it's important."

"You never expect it to be your kid or your family member or your loved one." — Paul Ybarra, Kai Lermer's godfather

With the money raised, they hope to start the Kai Lermer Foundation. In addition to installing as many AEDs as possible, they want to also start testing in schools to help students find out if they have this kind of undetectable heart defect.

They'd also like to establish a Kai Lermer scholarship for local student athletes in Waukesha. They hope to get more CPR training in the Waukesha School District.

In Wauwatosa, they have 62 publicly accessible AEDs. They say residents can download the app, PulsePoint, which shows where the AEDs are saving valuable time.

"These devices, when used appropriately, can absolutely save someone's life in the event of a cardiac arrest," Division Chief Christopher Sandoval of Wauwatosa EMS said. "Two main things can affect the outcome of a cardiac arrest, and one is the early application of an AED. Two is the application of high-quality CPR immediately when a cardiac arrest occurs."

Sandoval says their AEDs cost roughly $1,300 and can last anywhere from 10 to 15 years. The combination of using an AED properly and CPR can be life saving.

"Time is of the absolute essence," Sandoval said. "We need to make sure CPR is started as soon as possible. Every minute CPR or an AED is not used, someone's chances of overall survival decreases by roughly 10 percent. In the couple minutes it takes fire and EMS and police to get there, a person's outcome can be drastically affected."

In addition to the GoFundMe page, the community is holding a fundraiser at the Culver's at 2600 N. Grandview Blvd. from 4 to 10 p.m. Tuesday. They say 25 percent of the proceeds will go to the Lermer family.