Project ADAM New York: Improving Response to Youth Sudden Cardiac Arrest

Project ADAM New York, led by Christa Miliaresis, MD, is committed to saving lives by empowering schools, youth sports programs and communities to be prepared for sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). Project ADAM New York's objective is to educate, give guidance and provide resources on developing cardiac emergency response plans wherever children learn and play.

Established at Maria Fareri Children's Hospital in 2021 with the help of the American Heart Association and Saving Active Hearts, Project ADAM New York is the first New York affiliate of Project ADAM. Our goal is for all schools to receive a Heart Safe School designation by creating a sudden cardiac arrest preparedness plan that includes:

  • A written Cardiac Emergency Response Plan (CERP)
  • A Cardiac Emergency Response Team trained to respond quickly to a cardiac arrest 
  • Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) that are easily accessible and functional
  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) and AED training for staff
  • Practicing Drills so that staff are prepared

To develop your Heart Safe School program, contact Dr. Christa Miliaresis at ProjectAdamNY@WMCHealth.org or 914.614.4250.

Learn More About Project ADAM

Select a topic below for more information.

The History of Project ADAM

Project ADAM (Automated Defibrillators in Adam’s Memory) began in 1999 after the death of Adam Lemel, a 17-year-old Whitefish Bay, WI, high school student who suffered a sudden cardiac arrest and died while playing basketball. Adam’s parents, Patty Lemel-Clanton and Joe Lemel, collaborated with Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin to create Project ADAM in Adam’s memory. The program has since expanded to 31 states with 40 affiliate programs at top pediatric hospitals across the country. Since inception, Project ADAM’s Heart Safe School program has been responsible for more than 200 lives saved on school campuses!

What is Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA)?

Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is an electrical problem that causes the heartbeat to stop abruptly and unexpectedly. When this happens, blood stops flowing to the brain, the heart and the rest of the body, and the person collapses. SCA can strike without warning, leading to death within minutes if the person does not receive immediate help. This can happen to people of all ages who may seem healthy, even children and teens. Knowing the signs of sudden cardiac arrest and taking immediate action are critical to saving lives.

Is SCA the Same as a Heart Attack?

No. The symptom comparison is important because, contrary to popular belief, sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) does not present like a heart attack. A heart attack is a circulation problem in which a blood clot suddenly blocks a coronary artery. Heart attack victims usually experience symptoms such as chest discomfort or pain and remain conscious. SCA is associated with sudden loss of consciousness and often not preceded by symptoms. Heart attacks can precede a SCA in adults but rarely is the cause of SCA in children. 

Why Schools and Youth Programs?

Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is the leading cause of death in the U.S. and the primary cause of death in student athletes, but it also happens in non-athletes. It afflicts more than 350,000 people, including approximately 23,000 children, each year outside of a hospital setting. Ninety percent of sudden cardiac arrests lead to death. If performed immediately, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and use of an automated external defibrillator (AED) can triple the chance of survival. Since 20 percent of a community is in its schools on any given day, a focused effort on cardiac arrest preparedness in schools is critical to protecting our children and others in the community.

What is an AED?

An AED (automated external defibrillator) is a lightweight, portable device that can be used by non-medical individuals to deliver a shock through the chest to the heart following sudden cardiac arrest. The device analyzes for a shockable, pulseless heart rhythm and delivers a shock to restore normal heart rhythm. It is automated and easy to operate. Voice prompts give instructions, and the machine will not shock someone who does not need to be shocked.

Causes of SCA in the Young

The diagram below includes a list of diagnoses that increase a child’s risk of sudden cardiac death. Many will be diagnosed by family history or a personal history of chest pain or fainting during exercise. Further, when a child is known to have one of these diagnoses, they can receive treatment and restrictions to significantly decrease their risk for sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). 

The most common diagnoses are congenital heart conditions such as Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy or Long QT syndrome. Another cause of sudden cardiac arrest in athletes is Commotio Cordis. This is the disruption of heart rhythm as the result of a blunt blow to the chest, such as being hit by a baseball, hockey puck or another player.

Signs and Symptoms of SCA

Often there is no warning sign that identifies a person at risk of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). 

Symptoms, when present, can include:

  • Excessive fatigue or shortness of breath with exercise
  • Chest pain or chest discomfort with exercise
  • Fainting or dizziness with exercise
  • Palpitations (heart racing for no reason)
  • Unexplained seizures
  • Family history of SCA
  • Heart abnormalities or early onset heart disease in a family member
  • Sudden or unexplained death in a family member younger than 50

If any of the above are present, a cardiac evaluation by a physician is recommended.

Awareness and Prevention

Some heart conditions at risk for sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) can be detected by a thorough heart screening evaluation. Parents of children with risk factors or warning signs should consult with their pediatrician or a cardiologist. However, SCA is often the first symptom of a heart condition which is why it is so important for schools, youth sports programs and communities to be prepared to respond to a cardiac emergency. 

Project ADAM New York aims to educate and train people to be equipped to handle a sudden cardiac arrest event and to prevent sudden death. Any school can receive a Project ADAM Heart Safe School designation by completing a checklist demonstrating successful implementation of our program. We provide templates for developing a cardiac emergency response plan including resources for CPR/AED training and AED purchases.

What Does it Mean to Be a Heart Safe School?

The Project ADAM Heart Safe School designation means that the school has taken steps to safeguard the health of students and others on campus. These steps include having a written sudden cardiac arrest plan, ensuring that AEDs are functional and accessible, and assembling a team of CPR/AED trained staff who conduct cardiac emergency response drills so they are ready to act in an emergency.

Schools that complete the Project ADAM 14-step program are awarded the Heart Safe School Designation with a certificate and banner you can proudly display at your school.

Heart Safe Youth Sports and Community Site Programs

Project ADAM New York also provides assistance and resources for implementing Heart Safe Youth Sports Programs and Heart Safe Community Site Programs, so they are prepared for a cardiac emergency, ensuring athletes, coaches, game officials and spectators have access to AEDs, people trained in CPR/AED and a practiced plan.

Consultation

Project ADAM New York coordinators will provide a free consultation on prevention of sudden cardiac death in your school, youth sports program, camp and community. You will receive up-to-date information on how to train staff, students, athletes, coaches and citizens to recognize sudden cardiac arrest and be aware of emergency treatments to prevent death. This includes:

  • Cardiac emergency response planning templates 
  • CPR and AED training resources 
  • AED purchase resources
  • Assistance in conducting SCA and AED drills
  • Education about sudden cardiac arrest
  • Heart screening resources
  • Tools and educational videos on the Project ADAM website

Get Started!

To begin Project ADAM New York at your school, youth sports program, camp or community, or for more information, contact Dr. Christa Miliaresis at ProjectAdamNY@WMCHealth.org or 914.614.4250. We look forward to working with you on this life-saving initiative.

Give Now

Project ADAM New York Designated Schools

Alpine Elementary School - Sparta, NJ
Mohawk Avenue School - Sparta, NJ
Helen Morgan School - Sparta, NJ
Sparta Middle School - Sparta, NJ
Sparta High School - Sparta, NJ
Nassau Elementary School - Spackenkill UFSD, Poughkeepsie, NY 
Hagan Elementary School - Spackenkill UFSD, Poughkeepsie, NY 
O.A. Todd Middle School - Spackenkill UFSD, Poughkeepsie, NY 
Spackenkill High School - Spackenkill UFSD, Poughkeepsie, NY

Our Team

Project ADAM New York Team 
Christa Miliaresis, MD, FAAP, FACC
Medical Director, Project ADAM New York
914.614.4250
ProjectAdamNY@WMCHealth.org

Alice Schoen, Project ADAM Coordinator
AliceSchoen0@gmail.com

Dana Colasante, Project ADAM Coordinator
DanaColasante@yahoo.com