As the train hurtled towards Ang Mo Kio, Senior Staff Nurse (SSN) Zhou Lili was looking forward to seeing her baby at home, after a tiring night shift. A few cars away, trainee SSN Li Hanyu was heading to her class in Advanced Diploma in Nursing. This is their separate versions of the eventful morning of 25 November 2022.
Zhou Lili: I had already stepped out of the train and was heading to the lift. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a man kneeling in the train, leaning against the empty seats. Sensing that something could be wrong, I stepped back in. He had no pulse and was not breathing. I pressed the emergency button and also shouted for help, "Get AED! Call 995!". After laying him down on the floor, I started CPR (cardio pulmonary resuscitation).
Li Hanyu: I heard someone shouting, "Call 995! Call 995!". So I hurried over. A woman was performing CPR on a man, while calling out to call 995, so I did. I was tense – this would be the first time I have to do resuscitation outside of the ward, where life-saving equipment is always at hand. I was frantically thinking, "Where can I get an AED (automated external defibrillator)!?"
Zhou Lili: Conscious that we have to seize the Golden Hour to save a person after a heart attack, I asked for the time, and someone answered "8:40". The patient gasped and moved his limbs. Together with some others, we put the man in the recovery position. But again, I could not feel a pulse. So we laid him down again and I continued the CPR.
Li Hanyu: "If this is a cardiac arrest, every minute counts. We cannot afford to waste time," I thought. I told the 995 call operator that we will bring the patient off the train at the next station, Yio Chu Kang, so that an ambulance can get to him as soon as possible.
Zhou Lili: I felt the train stop. With the help of five others, we moved the man onto the train station platform. By then, I was exhausted and others have taken over the CPR. Again, I shouted for an AED. I heard an MRT staff mention "off duty nurses".
Li Hanyu: Together with four others in TTSH nurse uniform, we moved the man off the train onto the station platform. We took turns to do the CPR – it’s very tiring and difficult for one person to do it continuously.
Zhou Lili: At the station, we shocked the man twice, using the AED. But there was still no pulse. So we continued to do CPR. The ambulance crew arrived but had difficulty inserting the intravenous (IV) cannula to deliver adrenalin – they couldn’t find a vein as the patient was overweight. The situation was getting critical so I just took over to insert the IV cannula, uniform or not.
Li Hanyu: I saw the patient gasp and open his eyes. Glad that he was resuscitated, and seeing that help was at hand, I rushed off to class as I was already late.
Zhou Lili: After giving my account as first responder to the police, I headed home and told my family of the incident. The adrenalin rush however kept me awake throughout the day, and I caught barely two hours of sleep before heading back to start my night shift in Ward 74 (Neurology/Neuro-Surgery). My colleagues and supervisor were very understanding – they left me to catch my snoozes as much as possible.
Li Hanyu: I was not in uniform but I didn’t hesitate to respond. This is what all our training and learning is for - to save lives. I wish I had known better what to do as a first responder, such as where to get an AED. This tells me there is still much to learn. I have been a nurse, in SGH, since 2015. I was in Ward 76, the Orthopaedic Ward, before starting my Advance Diploma course in October 2022.
Zhou Lili: There was no expectation of me to respond since I was not in uniform. But there was no way I could have walked away. That’s what nurses do – we save lives. I have been with SGH for 11 years, including five years in the Intermediate Care Area, which is just one step down from the Intensive Care Unit, taking care of critically-ill patients. So once activated, all the training and experience just kicked in.
Li Hanyu: It was only when Lili and I met at the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) ceremony at the end of 2022 to receive the Community Lifesaver Award that we found out that we both work in SGH! And we were glad to learn that the man we attended to had recovered and was discharged from hospital.
(From left) SSN Li Hanyu and SSN Zhou Lili receiving the Community Lifesaver Award from SCDF
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