An unpunctual ambulance might be our go-to ‘just-Indian-things’ reference to make, and we all roll with laughter when the bad guy in your Bollywood flick is stuck on an electric pole without any help in sight. What quickly becomes terrifying though, is how relatable this scenario is in our reality, and how little we do to change that. Heart and lung diseases have been the leading causes of deaths in India – with cardiac arrests itself claiming 4280 lives for every one lakh people. Reports have shown that more than 60 per cent of the victims of these emergencies would be granted another shot at life, if timely first aid was administered to them. And that haunting image of the 22-year old victim of a hit-and-run Archana Pandya, whose death can be blamed entirely upon the passersby who inhumanely ignored her and walked on by, is still fresh in the minds of every Mumbaikar. It only goes to show that even our country’s most developed city has a track record as miserable as any, when it comes to emergencies.
Almost losing her baby to ignorance
Kavita Jain, a Bangalore-based entrepreneur who spent seven years in the US, luckily didn’t have to learn this the hard way. “My son was in the NICU after birth. It was a blessing that he was in the hospital when he had breathing difficulties and he could straight away be taken to the NICU. I freeze with fear every time I imagine our plight, had this happened at home.”
But her friend back home wasn’t so fortunate. She was inconsolable after she lost her uncle, a healthy young man at the time, when he got a cardiac arrest at a railway station in India. His relatives took him to a nearby hospital but nobody had any knowledge of how one can attempt to resuscitate him on the way there, and he was declared dead on arrival.
“That event shook me and made me realize how it could just as easily happen to anyone from my or your family, especially given the state of emergency services in India. I became conscious of just how important cardiopulmonary resuscitation – or CPR – is, in the face of life-threatening emergencies,” says KavitaAlthough their hospital back in America saw to it that they learn CPR and first aid before their son could be discharged, such awareness is conspicuous in its absence in India – where so many lives are laid at the feet of help that arrived a little too late.
“This is when we decided to start a non-profit organisation that would educate the masses of India on how to handle medical emergencies. Right after we moved back, we started Camp CPR.”
How to save a life
Started in May 2014, Camp CPR’s core concept is to educate people on how to save lives during emergencies like cardiac arrests, stroke, heart attack, unconsciousness, and seizures.
“We see a large indifference in our great country about saving lives and making attempts to save lives,” Kavita feels. According to her, 90% of the times the first responders to an emergency are the near and dear ones; hence, it is imperative that each household has people who would have working knowledge of first aid and CPR.
In that regard, their primary focus is to have a presence where large groups of people can be gripped. They do so by organising free awareness camps, training sessions, and social media updates – which are announced on their buzzing Facebook page, and also publicised through local newspapers and WhatsApp.
“Things we teach at these camps range from identifying the emergency, the symptoms for each case, and then, the steps they can take during these emergencies. We focus on most pertinent emergencies in India, which is – cardiac arrests, strokes, seizures, heart attacks, unconsciousness, and injuries,” Kavita explains.
Highlighting perhaps the most dangerous instance of no knowledge being better than half knowledge, she adds, “The biggest myth is the use of water for every emergency. For example, we have lot of people who said that they feed water to unconscious people – or the use of metal during medical emergencies like seizures – which causes more harm than good. Other thing that people were unaware of was the difference between heart attacks and cardiac arrests. Our camp also addresses these issues.”
The training is provided through the help of doctors on our team and using mannequins for CPR trainings. There are 19 volunteers who contribute around 20–30 hours a month and are all professionals – like entrepreneurs, doctors, investment bankers, data scientists, and homemakers. Kavita herself is an entrepreneur in the fashion industry, and has a social commerce venture in the jewellery space on the anvil.
Overall, they have organised roughly nine events since they started a year and a half ago, and have educated 2000 people through their work.
“We are now moving to partner with local organisations, schools, and colleges to reach out to more people and achieve scale faster. We will also soon be launching a video on YouTube, explaining the process so that we could reach out to more people.”
How they do it
Out of sheer humanity, Kavita performs this invaluable service to masses absolutely free of cost. “Everything we do is free for people to attend as we want to reach to people from all walks of life. With our efforts if even one life can be saved due to timely action taken, we would have achieved our mission.”
Their initiative is funded out-and-out by donations. “We raise money through the same events we take part in, and some of our participants also donate to us.” Some of their training camps are also sponsored by organisations and individuals.” They recently received the 80G status for their organisation.
The ambitious group strives to approach the issue through all directions, and has a multi-pronged plan in the pipeline. “We also want to create consensus among the right people for installing life-saving AEDs, or automated external defibrillators in all public places across India. We are also building an android app which will let people to request emergency services on demand.”
“The road ahead is challenging, especially given the indifferent attitude towards life that continues. But we are geared up for the challenge and we hope to change that,” she concludes.