Feature Story | 1-Jun-2022

First young life saved with Project ADAM school implementation through Texas Children’s Hospital

When Jeremiah Harry, 6, experienced sudden cardiac arrest, prior training with Katy ISD school staff saved his life

Texas Children's Hospital

Through quick thinking and prior training from the nation’s largest children’s hospital, staff at Robert E. King Elementary School in Katy ISD recently proved the adage, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

When Texas Children’s Hospital patient Jeremiah Harry, 6, experienced sudden cardiac arrest while at school, his Project ADAM-trained teachers and principal, Tammi Wilhelm, jumped into action, performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and utilizing an automated external defibrillator (AED), effectively extending his life until paramedics could stabilize and deliver him to Texas Children’s Hospital’s Emergency Center for expert cardiac care. Through their efforts, Jeremiah became the first pediatric heart patient saved through Texas Children’s Project ADAM initiative.

Parents Patty and Joe Lemel established Project ADAM — which stands for “Automated Defibrillation in Adam’s Memory” —  in 1999 following the sudden cardiac arrest and death of their 17-year-old son, Adam, due to ventricular fibrillation, an abnormality in the heart’s electrical system. To help ensure other families avoid a similar tragedy, the Lemel family spearheaded Project ADAM, a nationwide partnership between medical providers and schools, to educate staff and students on sudden cardiac arrest and the essential, immediate steps necessary to save a child’s or adult’s life.

“Regardless of the experience and expertise of physicians, or the quality and technology of hospital facilities, it is all for naught if appropriate actions aren’t taken immediately when an individual in the community experiences sudden cardiac arrest,” said Dr. Santiago Valdes, pediatric cardiologist and Medical Director of Project ADAM at Texas Children’s Hospital and Associate Professor of Pediatrics-Cardiology at Baylor College of Medicine. “Every minute counts following a cardiac arrest, and the importance of quick, educated action by those surrounding the affected heart patient cannot be overemphasized. Through proactive Project ADAM training with school administrators across Houston, Texas Children’s Hospital is working to strengthen the chain of survival for these patients by equipping the community with the knowledge and tools to save young lives.”

According to the American Heart Association, approximately 20% of a community is in its schools on any given day, underscoring the importance of equipping school staff and administrators with the tools to combat sudden cardiac arrest. As schools have drilled students on fire safety and evacuation for decades, there have been no deaths from school fires in approximately 30 years. On the contrary, approximately 40 to 60 children and adolescents experience cardiac arrest annually in Houston alone.

The Texas Children’s care team diagnosed both Jeremiah and his identical twin brother, Jayden, with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy when they were infants. Since that time, the twins have taken medication called beta-blockers to help prevent abnormal heart rhythms that occur as a result of their genetic heart condition. This spring, Dr. Neil Cambronero, pediatric cardiac surgeon at Texas Children’s Hospital, and Assistant Professor of Cardiac Surgery at Baylor College of Medicine, placed an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) in Jeremiah’s heart to help regulate proper cardiac rhythms. On the same day, Dr. Iki Adachi, Surgical Director, Heart Failure/Transplant at Texas Children’s Hospital, and Associate Professor of Surgery at Baylor College of Medicine, placed an identical ICD in Jayden’s heart.

Even with these precautions, cardiac arrest still can occur — and immediate intervention through CPR and the use of AEDs can mean the difference between life and death.

Dr. Valdes notes that the following steps are vital in saving the life of an individual experiencing cardiac arrest:

  • Recognize the signs of cardiac arrest.
  • Call 911.
  • Perform quality CPR.
  • Utilize an AED.
  • Ensure prompt, effective Emergency Medical Services (EMS) response.
  • Transition the patient’s care to an experienced hospital cardiac care team.

“We are so proud of how swiftly our emergency response team jumped into action to protect the health and well-being of our most vulnerable students,” said Wilhelm, Jeremiah’s principal. “Each of our elementary nurses is trained and certified in CPR and AED practices, and they also serve as instructors for other staff. King Elementary became a certified Heart Safe School through Texas Children’s Hospital’s Project ADAM program in November 2017.”

For more information about Project ADAM at Texas Children’s Hospital, please visit https://www.texaschildrens.org/departments/cardiology/project-adam. Individuals interested in donating to Project ADAM at Texas Children’s are encouraged to visit https://www.texaschildrens.org/project-adam-giving


About Texas Children’s Hospital

Texas Children’s Hospital, a not-for-profit health care organization, is committed to creating a healthier future for children and women throughout the global community by leading in patient care, education and research. Consistently ranked as the best children’s hospital in Texas, and among the top in the nation, Texas Children’s has garnered widespread recognition for its expertise and breakthroughs in pediatric and women’s health. The hospital includes the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute; the Feigin Tower for pediatric research; Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women, a comprehensive obstetrics/gynecology facility focusing on high-risk births; Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus, a community hospital in suburban West Houston; and Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands, the first hospital devoted to children’s care for communities north of Houston. The organization also created Texas Children’s Health Plan, the nation’s first HMO for children; Texas Children’s Pediatrics, the largest pediatric primary care network in the country with offices in Houston and Austin; Texas Children’s Urgent Care clinics that specialize in after-hours care tailored specifically for children; and a global health program that’s channeling care to children and women all over the world. Texas Children’s Hospital is affiliated with Baylor College of Medicine. For more information, go to www.texaschildrens.org. Get the latest news by visiting the online newsroom and Twitter at twitter.com/texaschildrens.

About Project ADAM
Project ADAM began in 1999 after the death of Adam Lemel, a 17-year-old Whitefish Bay, WI high school student who collapsed and died while playing basketball. Adam suffered a sudden cardiac arrest (SCA), in which ventricular fibrillation occurred, a condition in which the ventricles cannot pump blood into the body. An AED could have saved his life. In the early 2000s, Adam’s story along with similar sudden deaths of seemingly healthy youth launched nationwide and worldwide efforts to increase AED programs in schools. Today, Project ADAM is part of 28 affiliate organizations in 22 states across the country supporting Heart Safe School initiatives. Our program outreach has been responsible for helping save the lives of over 200 youth and adults in schools, making our mission just as critical as it was in 1999. Our vision is to eradicate sudden cardiac death through school and community infrastructure development supporting prevention initiatives including Heart Safe Schools, advocacy, education and research. For more information, please visit www.projectadam.com.


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