Dr Kevin Peters (name changed) did not think the cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training he received would be useful outside the hospital.
In 2010, the MBBS student was flying to the US for further studies when a woman in her 70s collapsed on the flight. After administering CPR, which comprises manual chest compressions — to restart blood circulation in case of a cardiac arrest — and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to induce artificial respiration, the woman was alive and taken to a hospital after the plane landed at Frankfurt.
“Dr Peters sent us an email telling us that our training helped save the woman’s life and told us that he would recommend the course to others too,” said Dr Ajay Desai, director of the Bandra-based Lifesupporters Institute of Health Sciences, which conducts basic and advanced life support training for medial professionals as well as the general public.
While the importance of CPR is undisputed across the world, in India most people, even doctors, don’t know how to perform it. “CPR is not part of the MBBS curriculum. It is taught only to post-graduates of anaesthesia, surgery and medicine,” said Dr Udayan Desai, an anaesthesiologist who conducts CPR training for doctors and the general public regularly. The American Heart Association says that CPR, administered effectively by a bystander immediately after cardiac arrest, could increase a victim’s chances of survival.
On March 22, a footballer, D Venkatesh, 27, suffered a cardiac arrest and died at the Bangalore football stadium during a tournament. No one gave him CPR. Last month, Hungarian footballer Fabrice Muamba, 22, suffered a cardiac arrest and was revived after being given CPR for 78 minutes, till he reached the hospital.
“Awareness about CPR should be like the government’s pulse polio campaign. It saves lives. But people don’t take it seriously, thinking that nothing wrong can happen to their relatives or friends,” said Dr Desai.
In Mumbai, even those who man ambulances are not always trained in the technique. “In my experience, few ambulance drivers know how to conduct CPR,” said Dr Pinakin Gujjar, head of anaesthesiology, Nair hospital, who has conducted training programmes for dental patients, Ayurvedic doctors and paramedics, among others.
Trained people can also give electric shocks to the heart with Automatic External Defibrillators, which can be placed in public places such as malls, railway stations and movie theatres.