Sneha Thomas instructs her friend to dial 108 for the ambulance, even as she bends over a dummy body, compressing the chest and giving a mouth-to-mouth resuscitation into its inflatable chest cavity. The scene was part of a mock drill in providing basic first aid in case of an emergency which was held at the Bhavans Vidya Mandir school in Kochi. “Someday, this could be a real-life scene and knowing what to do before the ambulance arrives will make a huge difference between life and death,” says Sneha, a student of the school, who attended the Samaritan Programme — a complete orientation course on how to save lives in traumatic situations. This joint initiative of RC Cochin West, D 3201, VPS Lakeshore Hospital, Kochi and the Kochi City Police is the brainchild of the Club President Ajith Kumar Gopinath.

Having lost a friend suddenly triggered the need for educating people about emergency trauma care. “My friend choked to death while having dinner at a restaurant. Later the doctors said that she could have been saved if someone had revived her heartbeat and given a mouth-to-mouth resuscitation immediately. Unfortunately, the majority of us do not know much about this. Knowledge in basic first aid is very important for us to help save precious lives,” says Gopinath, who is now championing the Project Samaritan among school students and the general public in Kochi.

Along with Dr Arun Oomen, a neurosurgeon at the Lakeshore hospital and Dr Nazer Chandy, an orthopaedic surgeon, he designed a three-level course that imparts knowledge on life saving skills that can be done by anybody; it requires no equipment or money. It aims to increase emergency preparedness in schools and public places and enhance people’s support in emergency situations. In short, “this audio/visual class, with the help of a mannequin, inspires participants to use every opportunity to save a life,” says Gopinath.

The programme has trained 9,000 students in over 40 schools in Level-1 and nearly 500 students in Level-2. “Children take to this skill like ducks to water,” observes Esther Agnes, the Principal of Vidyodaya School at Thevakkal, where the programme was conducted earlier. “They love to learn and pay keen attention. Besides, this programme is encouraging behaviour change.” It will also benefit others at home, in school and the larger community. The programme also trained 50 teachers of the Kendriya Vidyalaya schools across six cities in the country.

Recently, the club extended the programme to the city traffic police, many of whom “did not even know how to check the pulse. and they are among the first to reach an accident/ emergency site on a highway,” says Gopinath.  A full day certificate training programme was conducted at the Lakeshore hospital for 102 members comprising the police, autorickshaw drivers and construction labourers, which was greatly appreciated by Police Commissioner MP Dinesh.

Says Gopinath, “If a person falls sick and becomes unresponsive, or suffers a heart attack, there should be someone who can rise up to the situation and be smart enough to act fast and right. This programme enables everyone to jump in and respond positively to such emergencies.”

From choking to heart attack, and 19 such situations, the Good Samaritan Programme teaches the proper steps to be executed to save a life. “Saving a life is beautiful. But it has to be done right. That is the key to being a good Samaritan” he concludes.