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Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU helps Virginia schools prepare to employ life-saving measures in the event of sudden cardiac arrest

Girl dribbles basketball and is about to pass it to her teammate. Project ADAM is named in memory of Wisconsin teen, who died from a sudden cardiac arrest while playing basketball. In partnership with health care affiliates, the initiative helps schools and communities make sure prepared to care should someone may experience a sudden cardiac arrest. (Stock Photo, Getty Images)

Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU is now a Project ADAM affiliate. This means a team at the hospital can grant the designation of “Project ADAM heart safe school” to any school in the state that meets the criteria to show its preparedness for responding to a sudden cardiac arrest on school grounds. There are currently 38 Project ADAM programs in 29 states. CHoR is the first and only in Virginia.  

Project ADAM, which stands for Automated Defibrillation in Adam’s Memory, is a national non-profit committed to saving lives through advocacy, education, preparedness and collaboration. It was developed in memory of Wisconsin teen Adam Lemel, who suffered a sudden cardiac arrest, collapsed and died while playing basketball in 1999. Defibrillation with an automated external defibrillator could have saved his life. An AED is a sophisticated, yet easy to use device that can analyze the heart’s rhythm and automatically deliver an electrical shock when necessary to restore normal rhythm. In partnership with health care affiliates throughout the nation, Project ADAM helps schools and communities ensure they’re prepared to care for students, faculty, staff and visitors who may experience a sudden cardiac arrest like Adam’s.

“There are approximately 350,000 sudden cardiac arrests in the U.S. each year, about 90 percent of which are fatal,” said John Phillips, M.D., pediatric cardiologist and electrophysiologist, and Project ADAM medical director at CHoR. “When you consider 20 percent of a community is in its schools most days – during educational time, sports and other extracurricular activities – many lives can be saved through access to AEDs and proper education and practice to address these medical emergencies when they arise.”

Each school must meet 14 criteria to achieve designation as a Project ADAM heart safe school, including having on-site AEDs and CPR/AED certified team members, educating the entire staff about the program and emergency response plan, and conducting sudden cardiac arrest drills.

“Our role as a children’s hospital includes caring for families in our hospitals and clinics, as well as creating healthier communities outside our walls,” said Elias Neujahr, CHoR president. “Becoming a Project ADAM affiliate allows our team to share their expertise so others throughout the commonwealth stand ready to save lives.”

Over the years, Project ADAM has helped save the lives of more than 200 youth and adults in schools.

“Dr. John Phillips is a highly skilled pediatric electrophysiologist who not only cares about the health of his patients, but that of all kids and the community. Having him lead the charge to create and validate heart safe schools should make Virginia’s parents, teachers, school nurses and administrators rest easier,” said Christopher Snyder, M.D., chief of pediatric cardiology at CHoR.

Virginia school personnel and parents interested in their schools becoming heart safe designated can contact Dr. John Phillips, medical director or Lexi Stevens, program coordinator for details on how to get started.