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Initiative seeks to prevent sudden cardiac arrest in children

Apr. 6, 2017, 9:31 AM

Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt recently launched a chapter of Project ADAM (Automated Defibrillators in Adam’s Memory), a national organization committed to preventing sudden cardiac arrest in children and teens through education and life-saving programs.

Children’s Hospital joins 13 other affiliates in the quest to provide advocacy, education, preparedness and collaboration to prevent death from sudden cardiac arrest — when the heart suddenly stops beating, cutting off blood flow to the brain and other vital organs. The program focuses on ensuring that schools and communities are not only equipped with automated external defibrillators (AEDs) but also trained in prevention measures.

English Flack, M.D.

“As a large center for children’s care in Tennessee, Vanderbilt frequently sees the patients who have suffered a sudden cardiac arrest,” said English Flack, M.D., assistant professor Pediatric Cardiology and medical director of Project ADAM Middle Tennessee.

“Many of the patients are transported here for medical attention. We help with the resuscitation and diagnosis of these patients and since we were already involved in that aspect, it was important for us to be on the forefront of the prevention model as well.

“As a pediatric cardiologist, I have always been interested in this condition. But I think it makes it more relevant after hearing from the patient family members about how important it was that an AED saved their loved one’s life. Project ADAM is an important, life-saving resource that we can offer our community,” Flack said.

An AED is a portable electronic device that, when properly applied, can stabilize potentially life-threatening heart rhythms, including sudden cardiac arrest.

Vanderbilt joins East Tennessee Children’s Hospital in Knoxville as the second affiliation in the state. The program will serve as a support network for schools and communities in the Middle Tennessee area.

Angel Carter, R.N.

“Our first goal is to partner with local high schools to ensure they each have an AED and that the staff at the school is equipped to use it properly,” said Angel Carter, R.N., program coordinator for Project ADAM Middle Tennessee. “We will be more than just a consult service. We are hands-on. We know the importance of receiving aid within minutes of an event.

“The American Heart Association says the incidence of non-hospital related cardiac arrest is greater than 350,000 per year for children and adults, with an average survival rate of 10.6 percent,” Carter said. “It is critical that a patient get CPR and have an AED used within three to five minutes of their event to increase their chances of survival.

“Survival rates decrease by 10 percent with each minute of delayed defibrillation.”
In Tennessee sudden cardiac arrest affects about 150 children a year.

As the program coordinator, Carter’s to-do list is long: reaching out to all local high schools to identify which have an AED and which do not; determining which schools need training as well as helping schools identify a team designated to administer CPR and use the AED and which schools require assistance organizing the annual drills, which are required by state law.

Present state law encourages all schools to have an AED, but requires any school with an AED to comply with general regulations. It also requires any public school with one or more AEDs to hold an annual training for all school personnel and conduct an annual CPR and AED drill to evaluate the school’s preparedness.

“We want to partner with schools to help save lives,” Carter said. “In 2011, as a bystander at a basketball game, I was one of the people responding to a sudden cardiac event.

“We were able to use CPR and an AED. That person survived. It was a defining moment for me. Survival rates more than triple when an AED is used.”

Project ADAM began in 1999 after the death of Adam Lemel, a 17-year-old who collapsed while playing basketball. The Wisconsin teen died after suffering a sudden cardiac arrest. The use of an AED could have saved his life. Adam’s parents collaborated with Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin’s Heart Center to create this program in Adam’s memory.

For more information about Project ADAM Middle Tennessee, contact Angel Carter at or English Flack at

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