If I could choose one unique trait that I love about Malaysia, it would be that we Malaysians generally strive for togetherness. Unlike most parts of the world, we are made of many races and religions. Yet, we (try to) live with one another in peace and harmony. It’s no surprise then that even after 59 years of independence, we continue to celebrate the beauty in our diversity. This is one of the main reasons why I chose to volunteer at UKECharisma’s CPR Relay on the 31st of August this year.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), coronary heart disease is the #1 killer in Malaysia, accounting for 22.18% of the total deaths back in 2010, 47% of which were preventable by pre-hospitable treatment. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), especially if performed in the first few minutes of cardiac arrest, can double or even triple a person’s chance of survival. It was recorded that 70% of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests happen in homes, yet most people are not equipped with the proper knowledge and skill required for performing CPR, as simple as it may be.
Statistics and numerical data aside, I thought that joining the UKECharisma team on this project was a brilliant opportunity to kill two birds with one stone – learn basic CPR techniques, be a part of Malaysia’s first and possibly largest CPR relay thus far, meet new people and as a personal benefit, to try something new altogether (okay, that’s definitely more than two birds, but you get the idea). On top of all that, I thought that it was even more meaningful by virtue of it being held on Merdeka Day. I mean, what better way to celebrate than to commemorate how far our country has come (and the dreams we aspire to achieve as a nation), than to do some good amongst the company of fellow countrymen?
Being a volunteer for the CPR Relay was truly an experience. I wasn’t involved in the months of arduous planning prior to the event, but seeing how everything played out on the day itself was probably a testament to the amount of sweat and tears shed behind the scenes. I won’t even begin to talk about the kind of hard work put in and will leave that to the people who actually did it, as I may end up doing them a great injustice if I were to even try. All I will say is that trees do not bear fruit overnight, and definitely not without weeks of toiling and nurturing.
Looking back now, it’s almost hard to believe that for 11 straight hours (this excludes the 7am briefing and post-event cleaning up), more than 100 volunteers – most of whom did not know each other before – managed to pull off such a large-scaled event. Being stationed at different posts made me realise just how incredibly varied the crowd demographic was. I saw a young boy watching our home-made info-video, an elderly aunty pumping with her might as part of the relay, families who stopped by during their public holiday quality time at Atria and certified St. John’s Ambulance professionals on duty; it was a beautiful sight to see everyone genuinely getting along regardless of their age, skin colour and walks of life.
We had a target to have a total of 1, 500 participants to perform compressions on a dummy one after another non-stop (hence CPR relay). Although we exceeded even our own expectations with a grand total of *drumroll please…* 1, 525 participants, I personally think we achieved much more. The concept we’re taught from young about how it is not the destination that matters but the journey, came to light that day. As the last participant ended the relay and the volunteer flipped the board to reveal the final number 1525, the loud cheers, the seemingly endless clapping, and the sight of everyone hugging one another was one that will stick with me for a long time. As one of the committee members led the victorious cheer and the rest of us followed suit, the seven proud “MERDEKA!” cries filled the mall and most of all, our hearts.
There has been a tremendous amount of people, within and outside our History textbooks, who have fought and are continuing to fight for our nation. But the CPR Relay served me a great reminder which I would like to share. Heroes are not always set in stone, erect for the world to see through the ages; heroes are not always painted and framed, their stories plastered onto an entrance fee to museums and tourist centres; heroes are not always shared all over the news, held up by praise and likes on social media. On the 31st of August 2016, heroes were simply the student volunteers, each from different ethnicities and backgrounds, studying various courses across the globe, brought together by a common goal to want to do some good for the country we love.
And that gives me the hope that when we stand united, we truly can keep our nation’s heart beating.