Over 3,000 people suffer from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest in Singapore every year, according to latest figures released by the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF). For every minute that nothing is done to resuscitate the victim, their chance of survival drops by 10%. Everyone can play a role to help save a life even in the face of this COVID-19 pandemic.
In an effort to keep our community first-responders safe and encourage more people to step forward to save lives during the pandemic period, the Singapore Heart Foundation (SHF) and SCDF recently embarked on an initiative to place 20,000 face masks and hand sanitisers into 10,000 publicly accessible AED cabinets across the nation.
Community first-responder Dr Ng Yih Yng, also the HomeTeam Chief Medical Officer, shares with heartline his recent experience in responding to a cardiac arrest case in his neighbourhood and a couple of tips to address safety concerns about performing CPR during this pandemic.
Dr Ng, you recently rushed to respond to a cardiac arrest incident in your neighbourhood and faced an awkward situation?
It happened sometime in August this year. I was working from home when I received an alert from the myResponder app. The victim’s house was less than 200m from mine and I rushed out immediately after grabbing my pocket mask. While navigating my way to the location, I noticed people on the street looking at me. Initially I wondered if somehow people knew I was rushing to save a life, then I realised it was because I forgot to wear a face mask! Knowing that time was of the essence, I quickly turned back home to put one on, before rushing out again to attend to the incident. Thankfully, I was able to assist the victim together with the firebiker and an SCDF Red Rhino crew.
What is your view on SHF and SCDF’s initiative to add face masks and sanitisers into Publicly Accessible AED cabinets? How will this help maintain hygiene and possibly encourage more people to step forward to save lives especially during the pandemic period?
COVID-19 has changed the way we live and wearing a face mask when we are outdoor is a new habit we must adopt. There are times when it may slip our minds, especially during emergencies where we have to focus on many other things. In cardiac arrest cases, time is of essence. Placing face masks and hand sanitisers in the AED cabinets is a good initiative as it can help community first-responders to maintain good hygiene by putting a mask over the victim’s face before starting chest compressions.Although the risks are low in Singapore currently with our strict COVID-19 control measures, first-responders may still have some concerns about aerosol droplets generated by chest
compressions. Lifesavers can also sanitise their hands after they hand over the casualty to the SCDF crew.
I think Singaporeans are big-hearted people — if they know someone needs help, they will likely step forward and respond. But if anyone has concerns about responding during this COVID period, this initiative may help to reduce their fears.
Why is it important for laypersons to learn CPR+AED?
About 70% of cardiac arrest cases happen in homes — with so many people working from home and they may continue to do so in the ‘new normal’, the likelihood of being present when a loved one needs CPR is higher than before.
I feel that CPR and AED skills will become even more essential as a life skill that every Singaporean should have. It’s best that these skills are systematically taught.We already have the Dispatcher Assisted First Responder (DARE) programme, which is taught in schools just once during secondary one – but we hope that schools can eventually run refresher programmes every 2 years to reinforce the learning.
Lastly, even if people have not gone through a course to learn CPR and/or use an AED, it should not deter them to step forward to help by checking on the victim and calling 995. Anyone can be coached over the phone to do chest compressions, which is better than doing nothing at all.We hope that everyone can help snatch life from the jaws of death.