Project ADAM Saves Lives: 15-Year-Old Boy Revived by AED on 2 Separate Occasions
Dirk, a sophomore at Weatherford High School, passed out while he was at school. Fortunately, just a few weeks earlier, the campus and staff became a Heart Safe school through Project ADAM.
National CPR and AED Awareness Week is June 1-7 to highlight how lives can be saved if more Americans know CPR and how to use an AED.
By Eline deBruijn Wiggins
A family and community are inspired after a 15-year-old boy was revived for the second time in his life by an automated external defibrillator from the Project ADAM program at Cook Children’s. Dirk Green symbolizes the importance of education and training for heart conditions, and having an AED in schools.
In April, Dirk, a sophomore at Weatherford High School, collapsed and lost consciousness when he was at school and heading to the restroom. Fortunately, just a few weeks earlier, the Project ADAM program at Cook Children’s trained school staff on how to use an AED, created an emergency plan and provided resources to become a “Heart Safe” school.
Project ADAM is a nonprofit, nationwide program that creates Heart Safe schools through free training, support, cardiac emergency preparedness resources and AEDs. When Dirk collapsed, the school staff knew exactly what actions to take and how to use the AED properly.
The program’s mission is to educate school systems, nurses, coaches, trainers, parents and others about pediatric sudden cardiac death and to establish emergency programs to help provide a timely and lifesaving response as emergency medical services are on their way to an incident.
Weatherford High School is one of 532 schools in the Project ADAM program at Cook Children’s.
The first time Dirk was saved by the AED device from Project ADAM was while he was in middle school. He was shocked twice to get his rhythm back.
“I’m very thankful for Project ADAM,” Dirk said. “Please put one in your school because you never know when you’ll need it. It’s better to be safe and have it.”
During the April incident, Dirk was brought back by the AED and was taken to Cook Children’s Medical Center.
“They told me the AED’s eighth shock brought him back,” said Dirk’s mother, Amanda Green. “A 15-year-old kid is still here because God wanted him to be and because y’all put Project ADAM at his school.”
Project ADAM is a national nonprofit program that started in 1999 after a 17-year-old Wisconsin student named Adam Lemel collapsed and died while playing basketball. His parents helped start the Project ADAM program at the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in his memory. Cook Children’s is one of 35 hospitals and program sites providing free cardiac resources, including training and AED devices.
The Weatherford ISD Director of Health Services Ramona Villarreal, Weatherford High School Campus Nurse Echo White and the Weatherford High School staff took action to become a Heart Safe school and impact Dirk’s life.
“When our children walk into school we don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Sarah Thieroff, Project ADAM Project Coordinator at Cook Children’s. “Dirk is why we do what we do. There are so many people to be thankful for and it’s incredible how we can make this change and save lives just like Dirk. You just never know.”
Cardiac emergency preparedness training empowers people to use the AED device. Texas requires all schools to have an AED, but often people don’t know how to use it in an emergency or rely solely on the school nurse to use the device, says Thieroff.
“I encourage parents everywhere to use your voice, ask these questions, and approach your school nurse,” Thieroff said. “Ask, do we have an AED? Does our school have an identified CPR/AED trained emergency team and does our emergency plan include the AED? Is our school doing a regular AED drill to test their response prior to emergency medical responders? We can all work together to save more lives and we need parents everywhere to advocate for that change.”
When Dirk was 8 years old, he was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and ventricular tachycardia after he passed out during wrestling practice. That’s when he had a defibrillator placed in his heart. He says he has passed out nine or 10 times, and his defibrillator usually worked to bring back his heart rhythm. During the two worst times, Project ADAM was there.
“I’ve always seen it as if I’m supposed to be here then I’m supposed to be here. If I’m not supposed to be here, then it’s all planned,” Dirk said. “It’s sort of a reason to go out and live your life, live in the moment. You have to do stuff while you’re here and not wait until it’s too late.”
Dirk said he reminds his parents, siblings and friends that they shouldn’t worry because worrying won’t change anything.
“He doesn’t realize how much he gives me the strength to keep going,” Amanda said. “If he can handle it and be that mature at 15, what do I have to complain about? I’m just thankful for the higher power in God, the AED device and it being at Weatherford ISD but mostly for the strength that he gives me.”
Amanda says she’s grateful that his episodes happened at school because, at the time, she didn’t have an AED device at home. Now, they will receive one for their home, just in case. She encourages all schools to sign up to be a heart safe school with Project ADAM.
“If they’re a parent or they love anybody, just think if something happened to that person and that was the device that could give them to you for a little bit longer,” Amanda said. “Our family needed it twice. I wouldn’t have my son right now if it wouldn’t have been there twice.”
Danielle Moyé, M.D., pediatric cardiologist and physician director for Project ADAM at Cook Children’s, met Dirk in April because she was on call on the day that he went to the emergency room. She encourages schools, parents and the community to see the large impact an AED can make on a person’s life if it’s utilized effectively.
“Project ADAM is a nonprofit organization and a free resource to schools and the community,” Dr. Moyé said. “We offer this education, ongoing safety training and AEDs when necessary, to make sure that if somebody collapses at school or on the field, they have an AED available and somebody in place to revive them."
The AEDs aren’t just placed in schools for students, but for the community, including teachers, parents, school staff and anyone who might need it. It’s also a lifesaving tool to keep during sporting events and games.
When Dirk was younger, he thought he would be an athlete, but he changed his plans after his heart condition. As a sophomore, Dirk loves to act in plays, whether he’s portraying Olaf in Frozen or the caveman in The Addams Family.
For his future, he’s interested in cooking, politics or theater, but one thing is for sure -- he’ll keep sharing his story.
“More people need to know about Project ADAM, AEDs, and that these heart conditions are a thing,” Dirk said. “Many people would never find out and they would end up dying before they never fully live.”
Project ADAM program at Cook Children's
The primary goal of Project ADAM Texas is to provide schools across Texas with the necessary tools and education to plan, fund and develop their public access defibrillation (PAD) program.
To schedule your free school consultation and receive the steps and resources necessary to make your school a designated Project ADAM Texas Heart Safe School, contact Sarah Thieroff, Project ADAM Texas Program Coordinator, 682-885-6755 or through email at ProjectAdamTexas@cookchildrens.org.