Cardiac Center

Youth Heart Watch at the Cardiac Center

Youth Heart Watch mission

The mission of Youth Heart Watch is 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 change an abnormal heart rhythm to normal.

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.

Youth Heart Watch aims to have an AED placed in every school in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware and provide training and education for students and staff. The hope is that lives will not only be saved through the use of AEDs, but through increased awareness of the warning signs that precede sudden cardiac arrest and the risk factors for this condition.

Victoria L. Vetter, MD, a nationally recognized pediatric cardiologist at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, is the Medical Director of Youth Heart Watch.

For more information or to schedule a free consultation for your school or school district, contact Danielle Main Haley, MPH, at or by calling 267-426-7389.

About sudden cardiac arrest

In sudden cardiac arrest (SCA), the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating, usually due to ventricular fibrillation, 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.

About the AED

An automated external defibrillator (AED) is a lightweight, portable device that delivers an electric shock to the heart. When the heart is in sudden cardiac arrest, a shock through the chest (which travels to the heart) can halt an abnormal, ineffective rhythm and enable a normal rhythm to resume.

If sudden cardiac arrest is not treated within minutes, a person will die. Most sudden cardiac arrests result from ventricular fibrillation, a rapid and unsynchronized heart rhythm originating in the heart’s lower ventricles (pumping chambers).

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. A built-in computer in the AED checks a person's heart rhythm through adhesive electrodes. The computer then determines whether or not defibrillation is needed. If it is, a recorded voice tells the rescuer to press the shock button on the AED or it automatically initiates a shock. This shock momentarily reorganizes the electrical activity in the heart, giving the heart an opportunity to resume beating effectively.

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 96 percent of the time, AEDs are able to detect a rhythm that should be defibrillated. And about 100 percent of the time they are able to recommend NOT shocking when the computer shows defibrillation is not necessary.

Studies have shown that sixth-graders briefly trained in AED use are able to correctly operate the devices almost as quickly as emergency medical personnel.

Often, people who collapse with sudden cardiac arrest are “brought back” by AEDs if the devices are available and quickly used. Most airports, casinos, golf courses, shopping malls and sports arenas have AEDs. When sudden cardiac arrest occurs, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the use of an AED should commence immediately, as there is at most a five- to six-minute window before death or irreparable brain damage occurs.

What Youth Heart Watch provides to your school

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

The school's commitment

If you join, we ask that you:

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.

Frequently asked questions

Q: My budget is stretched to the limit. How will we pay for this?

A: Children’s Hospital provides support and advice at no charge. The cost comes with buying an AED and implementing training programs. We will help you find the funds to do this. At other schools, pancake breakfasts, spaghetti dinners, bake sales, garage sales and car washes have been used to raise money. Parents, local businesses and civic organizations will often make donations. Federal or state grants are another possible funding source.

Q: My staff is stretched to the limit. Who will coordinate this effort?

A: At other Youth Heart Watch schools, the school nurse, a local doctor, an athletic director or coach, or a physical education or health teacher have played roles in the program. Local emergency medical services and police departments are often willing to help raise funds and awareness, and lend a hand with training.

Q: My school already has AEDs. Is there any benefit to joining Youth Heart Watch?

A: Please join Youth Heart Watch even if your school has defibrillators in place. We’ll provide you with useful and current information for training and education and help you expand the scope of your existing program.

Q: What about legal liability?

A: There are Good Samaritan laws that protect people from lawsuits who use AEDs in emergencies. We can send you this information.

Youth Heart Watch in the news

Screening Detects Risk of Sudden Cardiac Arrest in Children

Contact us

For more information about Youth Heart Watch or to schedule a free consultation for your school or school district, contact Danielle Main Haley, MPH, at or 267-426-7389.

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