Youth Heart Watch

Youth Heart Watch aims to prevent sudden cardiac death among children and adolescents by placing automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in schools, recreation centers and other public places.

An AED is a lightweight, portable device that delivers an electric shock through the chest to return an abnormal heart rhythm to normal. Youth Heart Watch aims to have one of these devices placed in every school in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.

Additionally, Youth Heart Watch provides training and education for students and staff. The hope is that lives will not only be saved through the use of AEDs, but also through increased awareness of the warning signs that precede sudden cardiac arrest and the risk factors for this condition.

Youth Heart Watch is an affiliate of Project ADAM (Automated Defibrillators in Adam's Memory), a private, not-for-profit program initiated through Children's Hospital of Wisconsin. The program was created in 1999 in honor of Adam Lemel, who died at age 17 from cardiac arrest while playing basketball.

How AEDs work

In sudden cardiac arrest (SCA), the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating, usually due to ventricular fibrillation. Ventricular fibrillation is an irregular and rapid quivering of the ventricles (pumping chambers) of the heart. Although SCA happens rarely, children who appear healthy and physically fit may collapse from cardiac arrest without warning.

If sudden cardiac arrest is not treated within minutes, a person will die. The heart must be “defibrillated” quickly, because a person's chance of surviving drops by 7 to 10 percent for each minute a normal heartbeat is not restored.

When the heart is in sudden cardiac arrest, an automated external defibrillator can deliver a shock through the chest (which travels to the heart) to halt the abnormal, ineffective rhythm. This enables a normal heart rhythm to resume.

AEDs are safe for use by anyone who has been trained to use them, as well as bystanders who follow instructions given by the devices. Studies have shown that sixth-graders briefly trained in AED use are able to correctly operate the device almost as quickly as emergency medical personnel.

What Youth Heart Watch provides to schools

Youth Heart Watch provides consultation by a skilled program coordinator to evaluate your school’s needs. We will:

  • Help you create programs to educate staff and students about sudden cardiac death and train them in the use of AEDs and CPR
  • Help coordinate your program with the local emergency medical system (EMS)
  • Help you raise funds for AEDs and select devices
  • Help you conduct mock sudden cardiac arrest drills
  • Provide a CD you can use to present information about the program to staff and community members
  • Provide a video/DVD about how to identify students who may be at risk for sudden cardiac death
  • Put you in touch with other Youth Heart Watch school districts in your area

The school's commitment

If you participate in Youth Heart Watch, we ask that you:

  • Implement your program based on the Youth Heart Watch model
  • Reference Youth Heart Watch and Project ADAM® when talking or writing about your program
  • Update the Youth Heart Watch coordinator on the progress of your program
  • Tell your Youth Heart Watch coordinator of any event in which the AED was used (The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia has begun to compile a database of Youth Heart Watch programs in the region and will track outcomes, so we must have a record of every event in which an AED was used)