WHITEWATER — In a ceremony at Whitewater Middle School on Sept. 25, the five Whitewater Unified School District schools were recognized as having qualified for the Project ADAM Heart Safe Schools program.
Ali Thompson, the program administrator, presented a banner to representatives of each school.
Speaking on behalf of the Hermana Heart Institute of the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, Thompson said, “I want to extend congratulations to all of you for pushing this through to the end, and a huge shout out to Becky (Skindingsrude) and all the hard work that she did behind the scenes, because truly it does take a champion to put everything together.”
Skindingsrude serves as a WUSD health aide and is a member of the WUSD School Health Services Team that also includes Jessica Hefty, Lanora Heim, Erin Spear and Genoveva Verduczo.
After attending a Project ADAM Heart Safe workshop in 2018, and coupled with advocacy from students and families, Skindingsrude spearheaded the district’s extensive efforts required to qualify for the designation.
Project ADAM began in 1999 after the death of Adam Lemel, a 17-year-old Whitefish Bay high school student who collapsed and died while playing basketball. Adam suffered a Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA). Defibrillation, or an Automated External Defibrillator (AED), could have saved his life.
Adam's parents, Patty Lemel-Clanton and Joe Lemel, collaborated with Children's Hospital of Wisconsin’s Herma Heart Institute to create this program in Adam's memory.
In sharing this history of Project ADAM, Thompson noted that at the time of Adam’s death, “There were no AEDs (automatic external defibrillators) in schools, period, so we’ve come a long way to say that there’s not only equipment and training, but also programs in place, and people like you behind them.
“You all know how important actions alone such as CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and having an AED,” Thompson said, adding the importance of “really putting everything together into a protocol that can be used in each building and can shared with patients’ families that come to your system, and knowing that it’s a safe place to be for all of our visitors, all of our students and all of our staff.”
Heim, who is the WUSD director of Special Education and Pupil Services, said, “We are very proud to become a Project ADAM Heart Safe school district. This distinction will keep our students, staff and community safe by providing equipment and, more importantly, life-saving training to dozens of individuals who work and live in Whitewater.”
“As a district, I think this gives us more insight into the complexity of cardiac conditions that some of our students have,” Skindingsrude noted. “For our Medical Emergency Response Teams at each school, it gives some peace of mind that, along with the more drills and trainings that we do, no matter how scary or complicated a situation is, we are prepared to take action, if needed.”
“The Project ADAM Heart Safe school designation gives us further recognition in the community that we are trained and equipped with AEDs,” she added. “WUSD is a participant in the City of Whitewater's Public Access Defibrillator Program that alerts the EMS, Fire and Police departments, and community users of our facilities that we have AEDs available for immediate access and use, and identifies the location in each building.”
Skindingsrude also pointed out that Project ADAM offers grant opportunities for each school, to assist with purchasing equipment and obtaining training materials. The program also will replace AED pads for free in the event they are used, providing data from potential "saves" that the Project ADAM includes its nationwide database.
According to Skindingsrude, WUSD purchased new Zoll AED Plus defibrillators in April, 2019 that are checked monthly to make sure that they are ready for optimal performance. A trainer of the same model also was purchased for use in training and drill scenarios.
“All of these factors combined give us the equipment and confidence to have everyone feel safe in our school buildings,” she concluded.
Dana Foucault is the mother of Grace, a freshman at Whitewater High School, and James, a seventh-grader at Whitewater Middle School.
“Project ADAM is such an important program for schools since sudden cardiac arrest is the leading cause of death in the U.S., plus at least 20 percent of the population is at a school as students, teachers and staff,” Foucault said. “This is especially close to us since James was born with a complex heart condition where his heart will never be so-called normal. It gives us a bit more comfort knowing that there is a trained staff, AEDs in the schools and instructions on what do in cardiac situations.”
For more information on Project ADAM, visit projectadam.com.