Saving Someone's Life in the Nick of Time

As we commemorate World Restart a Heart Day on 16 October, we pay tribute to two volunteers, Chay Him and Huang Siyu, of the Singapore Red Cross for saving a person's life at the OCBC Cycle on 6 May 2023. 

“I wasn’t supposed to be there at 4 am.” 

The words of Singapore Red Cross (SRC) volunteer, Chay Him, as he recounted how he and two volunteers, Huang Siyu and Joyce Fan, saved a man’s life on 6 May 2023 at OCBC Cycle 2023.

Chay Him, 35, was not rostered for first aid duty that Saturday as he had to report to work in the morning. Nonetheless, he offered to drop by and provide guidance to SRC’s new Community Services employee, Samantha Yeo, 29, on managing first aider deployments at large-scale events. 

With several years of volunteering experience with the SRC’s Community First Aid (CFA) team, Chay Him is well-versed with the management and deployment of first aiders at various CFA events, and is always on the lookout for opportunities to share his experiences with fellow volunteers.

As Chay Him and Samantha were carrying out a pre-event recce along the race track at around 5.45am, they noticed a group of people gathering around someone lying on the ground about 50 metres in front of them. 

“Initially, we thought that the man had tripped and fell,” Chay Him said. 

However, when they observed that the people were shaking the man, Chay Him and Samantha sensed the situation was critical and rushed forward.

“An organising committee member shared that he was walking and interacting with the man who was not part of the committee, when the man suddenly collapsed,” Chay Him recounted. 

As the most experienced medical provider on scene, Chay Him, who is also a volunteer Emergency Medical Technician with SRC, immediately took charge of the scene and carried out the primary survey on the man leveraging the DRSABC steps - check for Danger, Response, Shout for help, bring an Automated External Defibrillator (AED), check for Breathing, and carry out Cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR). As the man did not have any pulse or breathing, Chay Him commenced chest compressions immediately, and requested the event organiser to call for an ambulance.

Meanwhile, Samantha asked an event organiser about the location of the nearest AED, but was informed that the nearest one was quite a distance away. Chay Him mentioned that he had one in his car that was parked nearby, which was provided to him by the Singapore Civil Defence Force under the AED-on-Wheels programme. He said he would retrieve it once the rest of the first aiders arrived to take over CPR.

Some distance away, Joyce Fan, 60, was waiting at the medical post where the rest of the first aid volunteers were waiting for a pre-event deployment briefing, when they heard an event crew member running towards them and shouting, “Person down, Red Cross!” 

Joyce, who was on her first volunteering experience at OCBC Cycle, had recently completed the Responder for Resilience Programme, which provided training on Standard First Aid, CPR+AED, Psychological First Aid and befriending. Together with Huang Siyu, 23, and other members of the CFA team, they hopped onto a buggy and were rushed to the scene.

Upon their arrival, Chay Him directed Siyu to take over chest compressions while he returned to his vehicle to retrieve the AED. Joyce was assigned as the next-in-line to provide chest compressions to ensure that the trio would not be over-exerted and exhausted. While standing by, Joyce recounted that she observed the casualty gasping several times, which, as she had learnt from her first aid training, is commonly mistaken by many as normal breathing. She pointed this out to Siyu, who continued with the chest compressions. 

Chay Him returned with the AED within a few minutes, and the machine carried out an analysis on the casualty. One shock was administered, and after a further one and a half cycles of CPR, Chay Him noticed the man had resumed breathing and called for a pause to the compressions. Upon a re-assessment, Chay Him confirmed that there was a pulse and the man was breathing. 

Siyu also concurred with the assessment, and the trio carried out a quick secondary survey on the man and found no further injuries. Siyu and Joyce took turns to monitor the man’s vitals while awaiting the ambulance’s arrival, and Chay Him went to obtain more details of the incident (the man’s name, age, medical history and existing medical conditions) from the event organiser who witnessed his collapse.

Whilst resuscitation efforts were ongoing, Samantha and the other first aid volunteers assisted to manage the crowd, especially those who witnessed the traumatic sight. She recalled seeing one of the persons who knew the man breaking down by the side and had to be consoled. 

The man subsequently underwent a heart bypass surgery and went on to make a good recovery.

Joyce acknowledged that performing CPR requires much stamina, which is why keeping fit is indispensable. Additionally, it would be good to have sufficient first aiders around so that everyone can take turns to provide quality compressions, as was carried out in this situation.

“It can be physically exhausting to perform CPR for extended periods of time,” Chay Him acknowledged. “While it was my 13th time responding to a cardiac arrest, it was actually my first attempt at administering a shock. I am glad that it led to a positive outcome.”  

From A Helpless Bystander to A First Aider

Responding to such medical emergencies did not come naturally to Chay Him, however. During a similar situation in 2014, Chay Him said his response was markedly different.

While working as a security officer at a sports event that year, Chay Him witnessed a participant experiencing a seizure. 

As bystanders tend to look towards uniformed personnel to step in to help in such situations, Chay Him said that back then, he too, stood as a helpless bystander as he was not trained in first aid. That incident spurred him to equip himself with first aid skills so he could help someone in future, should the need arise.

“You never know when you may need to help someone, it could even be your loved ones,” Chay Him said.

Indeed, emergencies can arise anytime, and most times without warning. Why not commit to taking up a first aid or CPR course this World Restart a Heart Day?

By Clara Lim
Copyedited by Keval Singh and Chay Him, Volunteers


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