Falling into the well would have been the last thing Almodaris did if it hadn’t been for two volunteers trained by a Norwegian Red Cross Health and First Aid project in Simeulue, West Aceh in Indonesia. Their resolute intervention saved the life of the little boy of 14 months.
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!
NorCross Health & First Aid Project
- Responding to the emergency after the 2004 Boxing-day Tsunami, the Norwegian Red Cross (NorCross) initiated several projects in the Indonesian province Aceh, North Sumatra, in close co-operation with the Indonesian Red Cross and Red Crescent Society (PMI).
- Activities on the island of Simeulue, situated in the western part of Aceh, included both infrastructure development and capacity building, the Health and First Aid project being a part of the latter.
- A total of 309 volunteers from 14 villages was trained, and then conducting themselves monthly information meetings targeting other villagers.
- The volunteers were recruited amongst teachers, traditional healers, community leaders, religious leaders, youth representatives, and other respected community members.
- The trainings included both first aid and basic health information, like sanitation, hygiene, common diseases, and more.
- First aid kits are distributed to the volunteers, as well as books on village health care (“Where There Is No Doctor” by David Werner).
- Of the 309 trained volunteers, 128 have undergone additional training to qualify as Indonesian Red Cross (PMI) Volunteers.
First Aid – CPR
First aid is the provision of initial care for an illness or injury. It is usually performed by a layperson to a sick or injured casualty until definitive medical treatment can be accessed. Certain self-limiting illnesses or minor injuries may not require further medical care past the first aid intervention. It generally consists of a series of simple and, in some cases, potentially life-saving techniques that an individual can be trained to perform with minimal equipment.
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is an emergency medical procedure for a victim of cardiac arrest or, in some circumstances, respiratory arrest. CPR is performed in hospitals, or in the community by laypersons or by emergency response professionals.
CPR involves physical interventions to create artificial circulation through rhythmic pressing on the patient's chest to manually pump blood through the heart, called chest compressions, and usually also involves the rescuer exhaling into the patient (or using a device to simulate this) to inflate the lungs and pass oxygen in to the blood, called artificial respiration. Some protocols now downplay the importance of the artificial respirations, and focus on the chest compressions only.
CPR is unlikely to restart the heart, but rather its purpose is to maintain a flow of oxygenated blood to the brain and the heart, thereby delaying tissue death and extending the brief window of opportunity for a successful resuscitation without permanent brain damage. Advanced life support and defibrillation, the administration of an electric shock to the heart, is usually needed for the heart to restart, and this only works for patients in certain heart rhythms, namely ventricular fibrillation or ventricular tachycardia, rather than the 'flat line' asystolic patient although CPR can help bring a patient in to a shockable rhythm.
CPR is generally continued, usually in the presence of advanced life support (such as from a medical team or paramedics), until the patient regains a heartbeat (called "return of spontaneous circulation" or "ROSC") or is declared dead.