Man saved from cardiac arrest pays it forward by learning CPR to help others

Mr Yeo Guan Kai, a cardiac arrest survivor, went through the three-hour CPR and AED course with his daughter Nicole Yeo (left).
Mr Yeo Guan Kai, a cardiac arrest survivor, went through the three-hour CPR and AED course with his daughter Nicole Yeo (left).ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

SINGAPORE - Two years ago, IT consultant Yeo Guan Kai was on a golf cart heading to his 10th hole when he blacked out.

He felt no pain and barely remembers what happened, but his heart had stopped - a cardiac arrest that later required him to undergo major surgery to insert three stents.

While only about 14 per cent of some 2,000 people who suffer cardiac arrests outside hospitals in Singapore every year survive, Mr Yeo was fortunate to be among them, thanks to his quick-thinking friends and two doctors who were in the group before him.

His friends had called for an ambulance while the doctors performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on him.

On Saturday (Nov 4), Mr Yeo, now 60, and his 27-year-old daughter decided to pay it forward by learning how to conduct CPR and use an automated external defibrillator (AED).

"The survival rate for cardiac arrest victims is very low, but it has improved over the years, no doubt due to programmes to get as many people to learn what to do in an emergency as possible," he said. "I have been a beneficiary of that knowledge, and I just want to be one of those who can help."

He was among 1,000 people who did so at a mass training event organised by the Singapore Heart Foundation at the Singapore Expo on Saturday.

Unlike heart attacks, which occur when blood flow to the heart is blocked, a cardiac arrest happens when the heart malfunctions and suddenly stops beating unexpectedly. Death can occur within minutes if victims do not receive treatment.

The Singapore Heart Foundation, which has certified more than 13,000 people since its courses started in 2009, also launched on Saturday a 15-minute refresher class to help past trainees remember the basics.

To be rolled out next year, users can wear virtual reality headsets and will be prompted, for example, to identify AEDs in the virtual world or locate the right places where their hands should be placed to carry out CPR.

Such a programme could improve a responder's competency and confidence in administering CPR, said foundation board member and co-chairman of the foundation's Heart Safe Committee Chee Tek Siong.

"There are many factors that contribute to cardiac arrest survival, and receiving high quality CPR is certainly an important factor," he said.

Senior parliamentary secretary for Trade & Industry and Education Low Yen Ling, who launched the event, also praised the use of technology, especially in cardiac arrest situations where a patient's chance of surviving drops by 7 to 10 per cent every minute after a collapse.

Another example she highlighted was the myResponder app by the Singapore Civil Defence Force and the former Infocomm Development Authority, which alerts trained volunteers within 400m of a possible victim of an emergency. It also shows the nearest available AED.