Hindu devotees taking part in fire-walking ceremony help and perform CPR on Chinese man who collapsed

SINGAPORE - A Facebook post with pictures of Hindu devotees helping and performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on an elderly Chinese man has gone viral since it was first posted on Sunday (Oct 23).

It has been shared more than 1,800 times and attracted more than 2,200 reactions by noon on Monday (Oct 24).

The photos, taken by Mr Kumar V and uploaded on Facebook by his brother-in-law Mr S R Loganathan, depict the scene at a Shell petrol station along Serangoon Road.

The incident occurred on Sunday at about 3.45pm.

In the photos, a crowd of Hindu devotees can be seen gathering around the unconscious elderly man as one of the devotees, Mr U Silvakumar, places his hands on the man's chest to administer CPR. Mr Silvakumar and the other devotees are dressed in their ceremonial attires.

Mr Silvakumar, 58, had first noticed a crowd at the petrol station as he was crossing the road. He had done his prayers in the morning and was headed to the temple to rest before the fire-walking ceremony in the evening.

When he looked closer, he saw the elderly man lying on the ground in the petrol station, while a few people were trying to fan him with scarves to improve the ventilation around him.

Immediately, the army military expert's life-saving instincts kicked in. After determining that the man had no pulse or signs of breathing, Mr Silvakumar administered CPR.

"I first picked up CPR in 1982. It's my nature to help," said Mr Silvakumar.

Mr Kumar, who took the photos, told The Straits Times that he and his friend had earlier seen the elderly man trying to inflate his bicycle tyres at the petrol station when the ceremonial procession was on its way to the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple along Serangoon Road. He "looked normal" then, said Mr Kumar.

As it was drizzling, four devotees held up a ceremonial attire known as a vesthi to create a temporary shelter over the elderly man after he collapsed, said Mr Kumar, who is a ship boarding officer.

"Some people tried to make space for the elderly man, while others were waiting at the side of the road for the ambulance so that they could direct it to the exact location when it arrived," Mr Kumar said.

"I felt very scared and I was just praying in my heart that this man could be saved," he said. "I just wanted the uncle to recover. It looked pretty bad and he was not responding at all to the initial CPR and had no movements."

A spokesman for the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said that SCDF was alerted to the incident along Serangoon Road near Block 509 at 3.47pm. SCDF dispatched one ambulance and the man was conveyed to Tan Tock Seng Hospital.

According to Mr Kumar, someone had managed to contact the elderly man's wife using the man's mobile phone.

Mr Kumar said the man showed signs of response just before he was taken into the ambulance.

"He was still unconscious, but we saw his stomach moving and immediately shouted 'Om Sakthi', which means 'praise the gods', in relief. It is a mantra recited during the fire-walking ritual," he said.

Mr Silvakumar, who helped to revive the man, was equally relieved.

"It takes guts because everyone is watching but I was not really pressured. I was just praying for him to come through. If I can save him, I'm happy, but if I cannot then it is fate, but it won't stop me from trying again."

He added that he was "overcome with emotion" when he saw that the man's normal heartbeat had returned according to the monitor in the ambulance.

"I was happy he came through. It is not every day we get the chance to revive somebody. It's something I will never forget."

Ms Aishu Kumar, the daughter of Mr Silvakumar, the devotee who performed CPR, told The Straits Times on Monday (Oct 24) that her 58-year-old father had been unaware that his heroic act has created waves online.

Describing her father as "selfless and caring", she said he has influenced her and her siblings "such that we do all we can to help those people around us".

"My family and I can never be more proud of the man we live with and who brought us up. Even as most of us are praising him, he does not actually know that he's quite a sensation now. We didn't even know about this incident till it came out on Facebook last night."

Mr Loganathan, who is a manager at a funeral company, was not at the scene but posted the photos on his Facebook account after Mr Kumar sent him the pictures.

"My main concern was to let people know that by doing CPR, you can save someone's life. In my line of work, I have seen many cases of death that could have been prevented, and CPR can save someone's life in a split-second," said the 35-year-old.

Netizens praised the actions of the men who helped, with some highlighting Singapore's multiracial society.

Facebook user Nyonya Yusri wrote: "Regardless of race, language or religion... good job!"

Another user, Elmy Tahir, commented: "This is the kind of deed that make us proud to be a Singaporean."

Ng Kwong Heng wrote: "Regardless Of Race Or Religion. God Bless You Brothers."

This article was first published on Oct 24, 2016.
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