WAUKESHA, Wis. (CBS 58) — Kai Lermer was your standout high school student. A three-sport athlete, Kai was an honor student at Waukesha North High School.
“He was an influencer,” his dad, Mike Lermer, said. “Keeping the team positive through cracking jokes. Just an all-around lovable kid. Always smiling.”
Kai died unexpectedly in 2019 at the young age of 16. An undiagnosed heart condition was the cause.
“It’s just overwhelming with the amount of support we’ve gotten over the years,” Mike said. “We wanted to give back to the community.”
Mike started the Kai Lermer Memorial Fund with Kai’s mom, Patty. They started by placing AEDs in parks and giving out some scholarships. After learning their son’s fate could have been different had he received an electrocardiogram (EKG), they decided to take action.
“We knew proactively, once we learned about EKG screening, that we could really make a difference and save young adults’ lives,” Mike said. “It’s all about education.”
In partnership with The Max Schewitz Fondation – HeartSmart EKG, the Kai Lermer Memorial Fund hosted its third annual EKG Testing and Sudden Cardiac Awareness Day on Tuesday in Waukesha. Roughly 500 students from 27 area communities were able to receive an EKG test, conducted by the medical professionals with HeartSmart EKG.
The Max Schewitz Foundation – HeartSmart EKG has been existence in 2006. Tuesday, the organization celebrated its 100,000th student screened.
“We find students at every screening that may be at risk for a hidden heart condition,” said Jeanne Coogan, a board member with The Max Schewitz Foundation – HeartSmart EKG. “A simple EKG test will find more than a physical exam. The hope is we can develop awareness so that families are aware that this is a risk and they need to consult with their physicians and have this maybe become a routine part of a sports physical.”
Kai’s parents are grateful to be able to keep their son’s legacy alive while encouraging parents to have their children screened.
“A standard physical only catches 10% of undiagnosed heart conditions. An EKG screening can catch up to 88%,” Mike explained. “One in 300 students has some type of undiagnosed heart condition. Parents, get your kids tested.”
“It’s excitement and some sadness as well. I wish I was one of the parents that was getting my son tested,” Patty said, adding she knows her son would be happy with the work they’re doing today in his honor. “He sees it and I know he’d be so proud of the whole community. He’d be so proud.”
The Kai Lermer Memorial Fund will provide more screenings in the future.
People are encouraged to follow the Facebook page for updates.