Awards recognise heroes with CPR skills

Photo above: Mr Muhammad Yazid (right) performed CPR and used a defibrillator on Mr Lee last June when Mr Lee suffered a cardiac arrest in Sentosa. Mr Yazid was one of 79 people honoured at the inaugural Survivor Awards.

SINGAPORE - If not for the kiss of life from a beach patrol officer, things could have turned out very differently for Mr Kelvin Lee.

The 32-year-old was taking part in a treasure hunt in Sentosa last June when he collapsed after leaving the toilet. At first, his friends believed it to be a prank. But when he did not respond to their calls, panic set in.

Senior beach patrol officer Muhammad Yazid was on duty when it happened. He recalled: "His friends said he was having an epileptic seizure. But I saw his blue face and recognised that it was a cardiac arrest."

Helped by colleagues and two Japanese tourists who happened to be nurses, the officer used cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on Mr Lee. He also delivered a shock using an automated external defibrillator (AED).

By the time the ambulance arrived, the business development manager's heartbeat was back to normal. "I am very appreciative to those who kept me alive," he told The Straits Times on Monday.

Mr Yazid, 28, was one of 79 who were honoured at Monday's inaugural Survivor Awards, given by the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) to those who helped save cardiac arrest victims.

The doctor who came up with the idea said the awards also aim to raise awareness of the importance of CPR in such cases as Mr Lee's. "Every minute's delay in getting help cuts a victim's chance of survival by 10 per cent," explained Associate Professor Marcus Ong, senior consultant at the Department of Emergency Medicine in SGH.

The ceremony's guest of honour, Dr Lam Pin Min, who is the chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Health, gave the example of heart attack survivor P. Mohan in his speech.

In 2011, while on the way to hospital in an ambulance, Mr Mohan suffered a cardiac arrest. But after prompt CPR and defibrillation by paramedics, he was successfully resuscitated. "Whether you are a paramedic, lifeguard or layperson, we can all play an important role in saving a life," said Dr Lam, an eye specialist.

Every year, 1,500 people suffer from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest in Singapore. Only 3 per cent survive - a statistic that can change if more victims get CPR in time, said Prof Ong.

Survival chances go up by three times when CPR is performed immediately.

According to the American Heart Association, Seattle has the highest out-of-hospital cardiac arrest survival rate of US cities, at 16 per cent. Bystander CPR rate there is as high as 70 per cent.

But in Singapore, only 20 per cent of victims receive CPR from passers-by. Prof Ong suggested that schools teach their students CPR skills.

Mr Yazid is trained in CPR and the use of AEDs, as are all patrol officers at Sentosa. In his 61/2 years on the job, he has intervened in two cardiac arrest cases. "CPR is an important skill for everybody. Cardiac arrests can happen to anyone," he said. "I'm glad to know that Mr Lee is well and is living a normal life. I feel that I have done something fulfilling."

Mr Lee, who got married three months after the incident, said: "After what happened, my then-fiancee decided to pick up CPR immediately. When it happened, she thought she was on the verge of losing me, yet she felt helpless."

His friends have also become more aware of the need to learn CPR. "They didn't see the cardiac arrest coming," Mr Lee added. "One would expect it to happen only to older people, but that's not true."

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