A father's wish

A letter from Joe Lemel, father of Adam Lemel

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 four crucial links. The first is to call 911 or activate the Emergency Medical Response service, the second is to preform CPR immediately buying some crucial time until the third link, defibrillation, can be performed. Having advanced care available quickly is the fourth link. 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 2,000 young people have a sudden cardiac event every year. The loss of the potential to society is staggering. And the national statistics for the adult population are seven times this great. 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 defibrillators are used within the first few minutes of a collapse the survival rate could be as high as 70 percent. Survival rates without early defibrillation are an abysmal 14 percent. We must not lose another young person.

My wish is that all schools have the opportunity to participate in Project ADAM, a Wisconsin-based program that Children's Hospital of Wisconsin began in 1999. The program is designed to help every school place defibrillators in their buildings and have staff and students certified in CPR.

We have accomplished much to date, but we have far to go. First, we must continue to support the schools in our own backyard. Secondly, many other states have started to contact us for information on how to begin. We must find a way to help them establish affiliate sites in each respective state of this nation. 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