Healthy Kids - Winter 2023


Heart Safe Schools Rady Children’s and Project ADAM work to reduce cardiac arrest deaths


Safe School designation from Project ADAM. Project ADAM was founded in 1999 in honor of Adam Lemel, a 17-year-old Wisconsin student who collapsed and died

udden cardiac arrest is often a death sentence if it happens outside of a hospital. An estimated 90 percent of people whose heart stops beating unexpectedly at home or in public will die. But if bystanders

while playing basketball. Early defibrillation would have likely saved his life. Since Project ADAM’s start, affiliate programs have been credited with saving more than 200 lives. Rady Children’s became the 26th Project ADAM affiliate in mid-2020 and works with local schools to provide support and education for the program. Schools are required to have well-maintained AEDs on campus under California state law, but to become a Heart Safe School, the campus must have a response team and plan for reacting to sudden cardiac events after calling 911 and while waiting for paramedics to arrive. Dr. Rao says only a handful of schools in the San Diego Unified and Poway Unified school districts have earned a Heart Safe School designation, partly because many campuses were closed early in the pandemic, but they are working to get more schools involved. Dr. Rao and Anne Laymon, RN, Rady Children’s coordinator for Project ADAM, are reaching out to school nurses to raise awareness about the program. Parents and community members are also encouraged to advocate for their


immediately intervene by performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or using an automated external defibrillator (AED), the chance of survival can double or even triple. Schools are a great place to start teaching the importance of a quick reaction to sudden cardiac arrest, and kids are especially adept at jumping into action, says Rohit Rao, MD, a pediatric cardiologist at Rady Children’s and medical director of the Hospital’s cardiothoracic intensive care unit and Pulmonary Hypertension Program. “You give them the education and a tool, and they’re fearless,” he says. “By educating our next generation in schools, we are effectively training and making them aware of the importance of cardiac arrest preparedness, so they don’t hesitate, they deploy.” Dr. Rao is also the medical director of Rady Children’s affiliation with Project ADAM, which equips schools around the country with the resources and education needed to respond to sudden cardiac arrest events on campus. That includes ensuring school employees have

By educating our next generation in schools, we are effectively training and making them aware of the IMPORTANCE OF CARDIAC ARREST PREPAREDNESS . –ROHIT RAO, MD, PEDIATRIC CARDIOLOGIST AT RADY CHILDREN’S

neighborhood schools’ involvement. “Let’s harness the power of community,” Dr. Rao says. “I would like every school in my community to be Heart Safe-certified.”

a plan to act quickly, are trained in CPR and have access to an AED, which can restore a heart’s normal rhythm. Schools that have proven their cardiac arrest preparedness can earn a Heart


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