A Call to Action

A letter from Adam's father

January 22, 1999. An ordinary day for many people; a special day for others. A day of births, celebrations and death. For our family it is a reminder of a vital life that was lost in an instant. For our family it is a reminder that our son Adam is no longer celebrating life. Adam died on January 22 doing what he loved: playing basketball with his high school team. Adam's potential ended on that day.

Adam's death was a total shock. He loved sports. He was a tireless, multi-sport athlete who loved to play basketball and tennis. He was a bundle of motion and energy that stopped in one short instant. Adam died of an undiagnosed heart problem.

Adam might have been saved if the Chain of Survival had been in place at the time of his collapse. The Chain of Survival is designed to help all people survive a sudden cardiac arrest. It is composed of five crucial links. The first is to recognize a sudden cardiac arrest and call 911, the second is to perform CPR chest compressions immediately buying crucial time until the third link, defibrillation, can be performed. The fourth link is having Emergency Medical Services available quickly and the final link is early post arrest and hospital care. The Chain of Survival was missing a vital link the day Adam died. He might have been saved if a defibrillator had been available. One was not.

As a parent, I decided that Adam's death would not be in vain. I decided that I never wanted another parent to have to watch their child die. I decided to try to do anything within my power to make sure the Chain of Survival is available to every young person. You think young people don't die, you think it won't be my child. But kids do have sudden cardiac collapse and without defibrillators and people trained to perform immediate CPR, they do die.

Nationally, it is estimated that more than 395,000 sudden cardiac arrests occur in community settings and approximately 12,500 of these are young people. The loss of potential to society is staggering. We must find a way to have the Chain of Survival in place in every school and public place. We must put defibrillators in all areas where people gather to learn, to play, to worship, to work and to live. There is proof that if a defibrillator is used within the first few minutes of a collapse, this can greatly increase a victim’s survival rate. Well-implemented defibrillation programs ensure the best chance of survival for victims of sudden cardiac arrest. What we know today is that for each minute that passes as sudden cardiac arrest occurs, the chance of survival falls by 10 percent. With an AED on-site, school responders can immediately attempt to save a life.

My wish is that all schools have the opportunity to participate in Project ADAM, a national non-profit program a part of 12 health care systems across the nation outside of home base at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin. The program is designed to help every school plan to place defibrillators in their buildings and have teams of staff and students trained to respond in a cardiac emergency.

We have accomplished much to date, but we have far to go. First, we must continue to support the schools in our own backyard. Second, we must continue to establish Project ADAM affiliate sites in each respective state of this nation to help schools implement coordinated CPR and AED programs. Third, we must continue to build valuable partnerships with like minded groups. Many resources are needed to support this program on a national level.

That is why we need your support. We need to grow this program nationally. We need to generate resources to keep the current programs vital and strong. We need to support our young people as they learn life skills to help them be strong, contributing members of society. We need to begin much needed research into the problem of sudden death in children and adolescents. We need to give schools the tools to be a resource to the community in establishing defibrillator programs. And we need to watch our children live and celebrate each new day. Will you please consider being a part of this life-saving endeavor? Together we can make a difference.

With warmest regards,

Joe Lemel