Samsulbahri, a teacher at Sigulai high school, was leaving the compound together with his friend Hendarto when they heard a woman scream. Initially dismissing it as a quarrel, they soon observed a desperate quality to the screams, and ran over to see what was happening.
A grim scene met them: Misjuarni crying while a relative held her toddler Almodaris in the air by his feet; more relatives around prayed, screamed, or both. The 14-month-old boy fell into the well while playing, and when his mother managed to get him out of the water, he had stopped breathing. Relatives tried to help, but by the time the teacher and his friend arrived at the scene ten minutes had passed, the boy had turned blue, and nobody expected him to survive.
Samsulbahri and Hendarto had recently attended a health and first aid training, conducted by the Norwegian Red Cross as a part of their post-tsunami programme in Aceh. Realising all hope may not yet be lost, they offered to try and help. The toddler had no pulse and did not breathe, so they decided to try CPR – an advanced part of the training, which they had learned in theory but not really practiced.
They worked for almost half an hour, applying chest compressions and artificial respiration, before anything happened. Around them, the screaming had given way to crying, and the prying was supplemented by the reading of verses from the Koran. Hope had left the group, they started accepting that Almodaris was dead. Then the wonder: The boy started coughing, vomited and started to breathe. Now Almodaris was the one crying, and the family started cheering and laughing.
It took another half an hour before they considered the boy to be stabile. By now he was hungry, but otherwise in good spirits. The mood in the group was festive, a feeling of having observed a wonder, of prayers being answered, the two rescuers regarded as heroes.
A year after the incident, Samsulbahri and Hendarto describe the scene that day in calm voices. They are happy they were there, and were able to do something. Just a coincidence, they modestly claim. Truth is, they made a difference by having the courage to act and to practice what they had learned in the training, and thus saved a life. Now they share their knowledge on health and first aid at a monthly session, usually after Friday prayers. More that 20 people from the village normally participates. Not surprising, perhaps, as the knowledge had proved to be very practical!