Han Bi Guang saved her senior from drowning during her pre-university years. Committed to saving lives, she has been renewing her Standard First Aid certification biennially since 1991. Bi Guang, a volunteer with Resource Development and Blood Donor Programme, has been volunteering with the Singapore Red Cross First Aider on Wheels programme where she provides first aid treatments to park-goers at Jurong Lake Gardens on weekends and public holidays since June 2023.
She attended the SRC's Home Monitoring and Eldercare (HoME+) Advanced Provider Training and renewed her Standard First Aid certification on 4 and 5 November 2023. A week later, she responded to her first cardiac arrest case. Subsequently, on 17 November, Bi Guang successfully revived a person who sustained a cardiac arrest.
Saving lives is not new to Han Bi Guang. She attended a lifeguarding course when she was 13 in 1985. That came into use when she saved a senior student from drowning during her pre-university years.
"If my intervention can help save someone's life, let me help," she said.
Cognisant of the importance of learning first aid, she exemplified her lifelong dedication to saving lives with the renewal of her Standard First Aid (SFA) certification biennially since 1991.
"It's important to keep renewing the first aid certification to refresh our memory of first aid and keep abreast of the first aid practices as they evolve. Repetition commits it to our memory. It becomes instinctive when the time comes for us to put first aid skills into practice," said Bi Guang, who is now 51. Since June 2023, she has been volunteering with the Singapore Red Cross' (SRC) First Aider on Wheels (FAOW) programme.
Together with a team of volunteers, Bi Guang provides first aid treatments to park-goers in need at Jurong Lake Gardens on weekends and public holidays.
Getting Trained to Serve
Having conducted training for seniors at other organisations, Bi Guang learned that several senior citizens were unaware of chronic illnesses and their consequences. After learning that the SRC offers Home Monitoring and Eldercare (HoME+), a non-intrusive monitoring system for seniors who live alone, Bi Guang decided to become a HoME+ Community Responder.
She attended the SRC's Home Monitoring and Eldercare (HoME+) Advanced Provider Training on 28 and 29 October 2023, which equipped her with the skills to respond to and meet the needs of seniors in emergencies.
Bi Guang also attended the refresher Standard First Aid (SFA) course conducted by the Singapore Red Cross Academy at Woods Square on 4 and 5 November 2023.
"I took the refresher course to ensure I have the strength and stamina to do the CPR [chest compressions] accurately with the necessary force," said Bi Guang, 51
Little did Bi Guang imagine she would respond to a cardiac arrest case a week later.
Responding to Her First Cardiac Arrest Case
On the morning of 11 November 2023, she received a notification from her MyResponder app for a cardiac arrest case at Bukit Batok.
"I felt it was my responsibility to help since it was near my home at Bukit Gombak, and I have been trained in first aid," said Bi Guang
Heading to the scene, Bi Guang vividly remembered what one of her SFA trainers, Mr Syafawi Ho Koon Sai, Senior Adjunct Instructor, said, "Download the MyResponder app. Respond when you can. There is no harm going. Go to the scene. Either you can help save someone, or you can observe and learn from what happens."
She was also grateful to her trainers and facilitators of the HoME+ Advanced Provider Training, Dr Girvan Tay, Dr Sean Elliot Png Yipin and Russell Aw for their invaluable training. Russell taught her how to navigate the MyResponder App. The Automated External Defibrillator (AED) locations shown in the app would be useful for the bystander or first aid provider.
On her way to the unit, she intended to retrieve the AED. She made five attempts to break the glass to retrieve the key, to no avail. She asked two passers-by to break open the glass to retrieve the AED while she headed for the unit. As she was responding to the case, Bi Guang took some time to search for the right block.
"Self-preservation and clarity of mind are important. In a hurry, I might have missed a step and I could have been injured. I would not have been able to save someone else," she said.
Upon arrival at the person's flat, two other first aiders were there. A family member, who was in the living room, told another responder that the person had passed on. The first aider then conveyed the message to Bi Guang and informed her that no CPR was administered.
"Our nation has been advocating having a first aider in every home. Yet, it was surprising that no one administered CPR on the person with the cardiac arrest though there were about 20 people in the house," said Bi Guang, a full-time caregiver to her father, who has dementia.
In retrospect, she is glad she followed SRC trainers’ advice to download the MyResponder app to help people who had cardiac arrests.
Reviving a Cardiac Arrest patient
Less than a week later, on 17 November 2023, she received another notification from her MyResponder app that there was a cardiac arrest case at a condominium in Bukit Batok at 12.30 am.
"It was close to bedtime, and I was about to turn in. Yet, I reminded myself that our inaction may cost someone's life and our actions can save someone's life. I responded to it," said Bi Guang
As she headed to the scene, she recalled the striking image of a man who was unconscious in a video that Senior Associate Instructor Ms Lim Li Lian had played during her SFA training.
When she reached the security checkpoint of the condominium, she spoke through the speaker and informed the security officer that she was responding to a cardiac arrest case on the MyResponder App. She was granted permission to enter. From a distance, she could see the ambulance approaching.
In a snap judgement, instead of retrieving the AED, Bi Guang headed straight to the unit so she could commence CPR. She felt that without the AED, CPR could still save a life. Given that time was critical, she felt CPR was the priority.
"The domestic helper broke down in tears. A young man, a young lady, and an older woman were in the condominium, and the wife was in a state of panic. A man in his 60s lay on an automated bed," said Bi Guang, who also volunteers at the Red Cross thrift shop and Christmas gift wrapping with SRC's Resource Development department.
Observing that the domestic helper spoke in Mandarin, Bi Guang asked the uncle who had a cardiac arrest in Mandarin, " 你 OK 吗? (Are you alright)?"
There was no response. Bi Guang immediately commenced CPR. After five chest compressions, the patient suddenly grabbed her hand. She briefly paused the chest compressions.
Subsequently, his eyes closed once more, and his tongue rolled as he fell unconscious again. Once again, she commenced CPR. Then he held her hand for the second time. This time, the patient fully regained consciousness
Subsequently, the paramedics arrived at the unit and asked for the patient’s name, age, medical history, and allergies to gain a better understanding of the circumstances. Bi Guang recounted that one of the paramedics said it was a miracle that the man was still alive.
Upon retrospect, Bi Guang said, "Time is of the essence. If I had not responded to it, the guy might not have been saved."
Embracing a Disciplined Exercise Regime to Keep Fit
Since she underwent training to be a HoME+ responder, she started carrying weights. Committed to saving lives, Bi Guang adopted a disciplined exercise regime that would give her the stamina and strength to administer CPR.
"Given that we need to attain a 5cm depth, CPR demands much strength and stamina. I started carrying weights and walking on the treadmill for about 30 minutes to an hour to carry out CPR. Despite the pain of my frozen shoulder, I persist as I am committed to administering CPR to save someone in need when the need arises. If I am going to save lives, I can't collapse. I should exercise to strengthen myself," said Bi Guang who also volunteers with the Blood Donor Programme.
Ways to Enhance Emergency Preparedness
To prepare for emergencies, Bi Guang says a fire extinguisher or fire alarm is indispensable in every home. She pointed out that there needs to be an easier way to break the glass to retrieve the key to access the AED.
She also urges recruitment agencies who place domestic helpers to get them first aid trained.
"Domestic helpers are at home with the seniors while the working adults are at work, or the children and students are at school. It is indispensable that domestic helpers are trained in first aid so they can save someone in times of emergencies," Bi Guang said.
Encouraging People to Learn First Aid
Bi Guang also encourages people to learn first aid. But she points out that it is not merely about going through the motions of learning first aid, one has to adopt the right attitude. She urges people to seek clarification if there is anything that seems ambiguous during the first aid training.
"Emergencies can happen at any time. In our rapidly ageing population, there may be a rise in cardiac arrest cases. There were an average of 320 cardiac arrest cases monthly in August, September and October 2023 in the MyResponder app. I encourage people to learn first aid so they can save someone in an emergency. It could be a family member!" Bi Guang said.
By Sondra Foo, Marketing & Communications
Copyedited by Shayan Amin, Volunteer