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“We’re celebrating life:” MPS student one of seven saved since AEDs were placed in schools

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Maria Acevedo

MILWAUKEE (WITI) — In 2010, Maria Acevedo, then a sixth-grader at Milwaukee Public Schools’ U.S. Grant School, suffered cardiac arrest while in her classroom. The MPS HeartSafe Schools program saved Maria’s life.

The program, in partnership with Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and Project ADAM, places automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) in MPS schools. It also trains schools staff and includes drills to keep schools prepared.

The Milwaukee Fire Department and its first responders are key partners and the effort has also been supported by Northwestern Mutual, the Masonic Medical Foundation, Voya Financial and the Wisconsin Coalition of Asian Indian Organizations.

Maria’s is one of seven lives saved through the program.

Now a student at MPS’ Milwaukee Community Cyber (MC2) High School, she returned to Grant School on Tuesday, February 24th to mark 10 years of MPS HeartSafe Schools saving lives.

At the event, Maria and MPS Superintendent Dr. Darienne Driver thanked the MPS staff and MFD first responders who helped save her life. They spoke in front of Grant students who are about the age Maria was when her cardiac incident occurred.

“We’re celebrating life,” Dr. Driver said.

The superintendent was joined by Dr. Anoop Singh, director of electrophysiology at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and the medical director for both Project ADAM and MPS HeartSafe Schools.  Since its creation, Dr. Singh noted that Project ADAM, which aims to bring AEDs into schools along with the education and training necessary to accompany them, has expanded to 11 states.

Education and training are key, MPS HeartSafe Schools Co-Coodrinator Rebecca Neumann-Schwabe noted.

“A defibrillator is just a device, and in and of itself, it can’t save a life. You need people that know how to use it,” Neumann-Schwabe said.

Dr. Singh said Project ADAM’s partnership with MPS is one of its most successful.

“It’s really the poster child for us of what can be done with a school system,” he said.

As part of the celebration, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett declared Tuesday “MPS HeartSafe Schools Program AED Day” throughout the city of Milwaukee. The proclamation was read by City of Milwaukee Health Commissioner Bevan Baker.

Project ADAM founder Joe Lemel, who lost his son Adam after a cardiac incident and helped create Project ADAM in his son’s memory, also spoke at the event.

The commitment behind Project ADAM, Lemel said, was that no child should ever collapse as his son did without the proper life-saving protocol – the “chain of survival” – in place.

That protocol is in place at MPS thanks to Children’s Hospital, Project ADAM, the Milwaukee Fire Department and all of the partners of MPS HeartSafe Schools.

“This is my dream,” he said, standing three seats away from Maria. “Being on stage with a survivor.”

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