Learning the heart way

If the sharp rise in BEST bus fares gives a passenger a heart attack, help may be quickly at hand. Jokes aside, it was all very serious business as the September afternoon sun blazed down remorselessly on a clutch of BEST employees yesterday, at the BEST bus depot at Colaba.

Holding heart-shaped balloons aloft
Heart hurrah: Holding heart-shaped balloons aloft. Dr A Singal is left while Dr R Boudhankar (in suit) is on the right

Doctors and staff of Kohinoor Hospital, took BEST drivers and conductors through a quick routine about how to provide medical aid in case a passenger in the bus complains of chest pain, discomfort and gets a heart attack.

Simulating a scene inside a bus
Distress signals: Simulating a scene inside a bus. Dr P Waghmare pretends to collapse from acute chest pain, while Dr R Jaria demonstrates how BEST staff could help him. Pics/Bipin Kokate

This exercise was held keeping in view of World Heart Day, marked in the last week of September every year. The BEST had even added a neat touch by tying a bunch of red, heart-shaped balloons, (so much in demand on the world-lose-your-heart-day also known as Valentine’s Day), to a bus for effect.

Showing the position of the hands during CPR
Watch carefully: Showing the position of the hands during CPR

Yet, why do we keep descending into mirth? Like, we said earlier, this was serious business. So, in the midst of double-decker buses, idling all around, the paramedical crash course took place. First, doctors simulated a cardiac emergency on a live person, (a doctor had to pretend to get a cardiac arrest) and then used a mannequin (medical dummy) to show personnel how one could give Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) in the first crucial minutes and preserve brain function before the patient is taken to a hospital.

Practising CPR on a medical dummy
Correct technique: Practising CPR on a medical dummy

Dr Rajeev Boudhankar said on the occasion, “Heart disease has become the No 1 killer in India, and now, studies are showing that even the poorest are being affected by it, puncturing the myth that this is a rich man’s disease.”

Dr A Singhal gave two anecdotes -- one of a bus driver who experienced chest pain while he was driving a bus. He actually dropped off children to school in his bus, took the bus to the depot and then went to Sion Hospital where an ECG showed he had had a heart attack. “Another driver, saw that a passenger was experiencing some chest pain recently and drove the bus itself into a hospital,” he said.

The doctors exhorted personnel to try CPR on a medical dummy and reiterated that there were three basic steps to follow when a passenger complains of chest pain.

>> First, check if he is conscious.
>> Then, feel the pulse.
>> If there is no pulse, give CPR, approximately 100 presses per minute.

All doctors stressed that, “The initial time which is critical in saving life of the patient is known as the Golden Hour.” Even the medical experts got into the act, to the amusement of all.

Dr Rajesh Jaria, while showing life saving techniques on a mannequin, impersonated a conductor giving tickets in a bus, when he encounters a passenger complaining of chest pain. Dr Jaria admonished a so-called passenger, very conductor style, saying in Marathi, “Sutte nahi? Asa kasa chaalnaar, (you do not have change, how can we function like this?) inviting some laughter from the BEST personnel. Nice touch, doc.

Meanwhile, since this is just an initial foray into training for on-road cardiac emergencies, BEST will be taking stock of feedback before deciding whether this needs to be continued and held at more depots. Yesterday, though like a speaker said, it was an effort to show that the BEST lived up to its acronym and became the BEST in tackling on-road emergencies too. 

Top tips
Try to get an ambulance to the site as soon as possible. Phone for help with a passenger’s mobile or stop an ambulance on the road

Get the other passengers off the bus and enlist about two-three people for help

Learn correct CPR technique

Try to get to a hospital as soon as possible

Avoid crowding around the afflicted passenger

Do not waste time, arguing with people about what to do. Five minutes can make the difference between life and brain death  

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