When Joe Lemel experienced every parent's worst nightmare — the death of his son Adam, age 17, from sudden cardiac arrest on a high school basketball court — he knew that his life's work, and Adam's legacy, would be to make a difference for other families.
Following this tragedy in 1999, Joe learned that Adam's life could have been saved had an automated external defibrillator (AED) been available that day. "First responders were nearby, but even they weren't fast enough," Joe recalled. "You only have 2 to 3 minutes. There needs to be an AED on site."
That's why Joe began working with Children's Wisconsin's Herma Heart Institute to launch Project ADAM (Automated Defibrillators in Adam's Memory), which partners with schools to help them acquire AEDs and train on-site staff to respond to a cardiac emergency.
Joe wanted to see swift progress, but it took time and persistence for Project ADAM to gain traction, first in Milwaukee and then across Wisconsin. "Something like this can't happen quickly," Joe said. "It takes a lifetime."
Joe is also determined for Project ADAM to continue beyond his own lifetime, which inspired him to put Children's in his estate plan. His ultimate goal is for Project ADAM to reach all 50 states. Each year brings that goal closer, with affiliates currently in 14 states.
"Adam never had a chance, but we know there's a way to give other kids a chance," Joe said. "I could never just walk away from that."
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