A public holiday is one of the few days in a year where society agrees to grant everyone the luxury to sleep through the morning with no alarm set. Not for the 100 people involved in the CPR Relay, however. On this day, they’ve set their minds on a mission close to the heart (pun intended), combatting the complacency and adamancy of the public towards a phenomenon non-discriminatory to the rich or the poor – cardiovascular diseases. Albeit being a case of common knowledge that cardiovascular diseases remain the number one cause of death today, many Malaysians are ill-equipped with CPR skills and ill-informed when it comes to the appropriate response that should be given to a collapsed victim of cardiovascular disease. This significantly reduces the victims’ chances of survival as the golden hour of care is neglected while waiting for help to arrive. ‘Why choose to render completely helpless when it actually happens to a stranger, or someone you love?’ – these 100 people asked, as they obediently resisted the intuition to hit the snooze button on the 31st of August, 2016, and made their way to Atria Shopping Gallery for the first ever CPR Relay to be held in Malaysia.
Their conviction to this cause started between half a year prior to the event for the core committee and up to a month ago for many of the volunteers. Since then, countless calls and meetings between the sponsors, the volunteers, the inspiration partners and the core committee have been made. From the dusk that fell on the day prior to the event till the next dawn, these phone calls and meetings slowly solidified into reality: all volunteers underwent CPR Training under St. John’s Ambulance, they’ve all had a glimpse into the social entrepreneurship work that is ongoing in Malaysia after the talk with Projek57, they’ve all drilled the flow of event into their heads, and they’ve all publicized the event to their friends and loved ones. Excitement kicks in as the stage and backdrop, designed in the colours of the Malaysian flag was set up; cue stands put in place over the concourse of Atria Shopping Gallery, our proud venue sponsor; and goodie bags were packed with goodies courtesy of Caring Pharmacy, Jungle Gym and the vendors of Atria Shopping Gallery. Every one of the million minute plans and ideas exchanged through spoken words onto e-mails, onto paper – they were all realized, and ready to go, as the clock strikes 9 a.m..
The crowd started building up before the event started. Y.B. Yeo Bee Yin, the Selangor state assemblywoman for Damansara Utama, graced the initiation of our event and participated in the relay together with representatives from St John’s Ambulance, Atria Shopping Gallery, Caring Pharmacy, Jungle Gym and UKECharisma, which also saw the coverage of the press and media. The flow of the event for the participants goes like this: First, they register and watch a three-minute video on when and how to perform CPR. Then, they move on any of practice dummies and undergo guidance from our volunteers, where the content of the video is repeated, and practice CPR on the dummies. After that, they line up to get onstage to perform compressions on a dummy. The next participant takes over after 30 compressions, forming the relay. Lastly, they are encouraged, but not obliged, to participate in a series of skill stations led by the team over from St. John’s Ambulance on how to perform the Heimlich maneuver for choking victims, and CPR tips for toddlers and babies.
A few participating institutions brought a group of their students to participate in our event, including, International Medical University, Monash University’s Leo club, SMK Taman Desa, Brickfields Asia College, Help University and others. Jungle Gym’s discount for kids who’ve participated in our events encouraged many families and kids to join! One little kid even came in a superman outfit, which was very much in line with our tagline – Be Someone’s Hero, and succeeded in melting all the volunteers’ hearts. Our talented emcee, Tim, kept the event lively throughout the day, announcing the headcount and inviting the public to take part throughout the day. The crowd kept going strong till past lunch time, when we hit the 1000 participant mark. The core committee shared their disbelief among themselves – though the target hasn’t been hit, but it has already exceeded their estimations.
Between 4-7 p.m., the number slowly crawled from around 1000 to 1300 participants. While glad to be granted a short break from the tireless, endless surge of participants throughout the day, we grew to be slightly restless as it seemed to us that we were so close, yet so far away from the target of 1500 participants. There were times when there were no participants lining up, and the volunteers had to repeatedly go onstage to keep the compressions going so as to not break the relay chain. With two hours left to the end of our relay, our project leader, Tammy, went on to encourage the volunteers tasked with recruitment. The St. John’s Ambulance volunteers too went on to recruit the public though it was beyond their job description for the day. Our effort didn’t go to waste, and our prayers were answered. Towards the last hour, the crowd hit us again like a tsunami, and the numbers on the flipchart went up steadily. The countdown towards the 1500 mark was especially thrilling, with the witnesses of the event clapping to the background tune of “Boom Clap” by Charli XCX, followed by cheering and exchanging of hugs all around the concourse. We ended the relay with a total number of 1525 participants, and one very exhausted dummy.
Swiftly after the clean up, our project leader, Tammy, UKECharisma co-director, Eshen and Volunteer Coordination Lead, Hui Yi, each gave a final de-briefing speech. While they couldn’t thank everyone enough for believing in our cause and hopping aboard our mission, Tammy ended her speech with a hopeful note, telling the volunteers to continue volunteering in causes they believe in. It was certainly a meaningful success for UKECharisma, one that was shared with the volunteers, the sponsors, and certainly, the 1525 participants that benefited from the relay.