For Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month, Cook Children’s Project ADAM is partnering with the Sarah Friend Heart Foundation in a giveaway for an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) system. Please read the following testament of Laura Friend to understand why Cook Children’s and Project ADAM are reaching out to all non-profit, youth organizations in Texas.

A Friend for lifeWednesday, July 14, 2004, seemed like a typical hot Texas day for Laura Friend. She sent her young daughter, Sarah Elizabeth, off to a water park for her junior lifeguard class.

But Sarah never came home. Just three weeks shy from turning 13 years old, Sarah collapsed climbing the stairs of a water coaster and was not resuscitated. She died of a cardiac arrest due to a heart disease, unknown to the family, called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy – a thickening of the heart muscles or enlarged heart.

“When I got there, the paramedic said, ‘Is she on heart medication?’ That was my first sign that it was her heart,” Friend said. “I just had no idea. I didn’t know that kids could have heart conditions that were silent and unsuspecting.”

As time passed, Friend’s grief at the loss of her daughter turned to anguish. The water park housed two AEDs (automatic external defibrillators) and life guards, but no one used the AED on Sarah. There was no emergency plan.

No one would blame Friend if she gave up and curled up in a ball, but that’s not who she is. Friend made it her life’s mission to protect the young lives of other children who may have a cardiac arrest in a public setting. She fights for AED education throughout the state of Texas and across the nation.

Her advocacy for preventing sudden cardiac arrest in children led her to join Cook Children’s as Project ADAM (Automated Defibrillators in Adam’s Memory) coordinator. Cook Children’s is the only Project ADAM affiliate for Texas. Project ADAM Texas helps implement AED programs in schools and provides everything schools need to plan and develop their program, including emergency planning templates, education and materials.

Project ADAM began in 1999 after a series of sudden deaths among high school athletes in southeastern Wisconsin. Many of these deaths appear due to ventricular fibrillation. After Adam Lemel, a 17-year-old Whitefish Bay, Wis., high school student, collapsed and died while playing basketball, Adam’s parents – Patty Lemel and Joe Lemel – along with David Ellis, a childhood friend of Adam’s, collaborated with Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin to create the program in Adam’s memory.

“At Cook Children’s, we place a great emphasis on prevention, and Project ADAM is a great way to make sure that kids throughout Texas are provided with the necessary equipment to make sure they survive cardiac arrest,” said Deborah Schutte, M.D. medical director of Cardiology at Cook Children’s Heart Center. “We are so proud to be associated with such a great program.”

When joining Project ADAM Texas, schools receive consultation with pediatric health care professionals from Cook Children’s Heart Center who can help:

  • Provide schools with thoroughly-researched information and individual consultation on how to prevent sudden cardiac death in the school setting.
  • Educate doctors, coaches, school nurses and other adults who work with children on recognizing the signs and symptoms of undiagnosed cardiac conditions.
  • Assist with CPR/AED instruction and implementing an emergency action plan.
  • Serve as an ongoing resource for PAD (public access defibrillation) program coordinators, which work to make sure AEDs are available where large groups assemble.

Friend is a natural fit for Cook Children’s and her role as Project ADAM coordinator. After her daughter’s death, she created a Texas nonprofit, the Sarah Friend Heart Foundation, and went on to help form and spearhead a national nonprofit organization called Parent Heart Watch that now has more than 300 advocates in the U.S. and seven countries.

To date, the Sarah Friend Heart Foundation has donated more than 55 life-saving defibrillators in Texas and trained hundreds of youth and adults in CPR/AED usage.

Her testimony and advocacy work with legislators, lawyers and doctors was a contributing factor in the successful passage of Texas’ Senate Bill 7 in 2007. Senate Bill 7 requires AEDs in every Texas public school, incorporates CPR/AED training for all high school students and appropriated $1 million in funding to a cardiovascular screening pilot program in schools throughout the state.

“Training in CPR, having an AED and EAP access to the life-saving emergency plan will strengthen each link in the chain of survival and have the potential to save the greatest number of lives.” Friend said. “It is Sarah’s life that has inspired me to help other families have the life-saving information that we didn’t have.”

Project ADAM Texas is a free service of Cook Children’s Medical Center and here to help schools in all communities. For more information, call Friend at 682-885-6755.

If your child belongs to an organization in need of an AED please encourage the orgaization to enter the contest. For more information and to enter the AED Giveaway Contest please visit here

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