WAUKESHA — Kai Lermer's family has been working through the legislature and the community to raise awareness about the risks of sudden cardiac arrest.
Lermer died suddenly in 2019 from an undiagnosed heart condition. He was 16 years old and a triathlete at Waukesha North High School.
"After Kai passed, it just devastated our family. We wanted to make sure that this would not happen to another family," his father Michael Lermer said.
"Kai had an undiagnosed heart condition called Wolff-Parkinson-White, and it is congenital heart disease," his mother Patty Lermer said.
2021 was the second year Kai's family organized an event where hundreds of high school students could get an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG), a short test that can check for different heart conditions.
Last year, the group did about 200 tests. This year they expect to more than double that.
"We're hoping to save some lives. That's the bottom line," said Michael.
Patty said out of 200 tests last year, they found one student who had the same heart condition as Kai and another with an abnormal heart screening.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin lawmakers are considering a bill, called the Kai11 bill, that requires the Department of Public Instruction and the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association to develop information, including an info sheet, about the risk of sudden cardiac arrest in student sports, as well as electrocardiogram tests.
State Rep. Scott Allen, who wrote the bill, said it follows the line of concussion protocols.
"What we want to do is we want to make sure every athlete, whether they're a high school participant, or if they are a participant in a club sport. We want to make sure every athlete is aware and parents of athletes are aware of the potential hazards," State Rep. Allen said.
The bill, which has bipartisan support, is sitting in the Wisconsin Assembly Education Committee.
Kai's family and friends hope their efforts will help students and athletes across Wisconsin and carry on Kai's caring spirit.
The American Heart Association estimates about 66 athletes die from sudden cardiac arrest each year.