Since March of 2019, Smile Train has partnered with the American Heart Association to offer Basic Life Support (BLS) and Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) training at our partner hospitals.
For patients suffering from cardiac arrest, these skills can mean the difference between life or death. According to the American Heart Association, for every minute that CPR is not delivered to a victim of cardiac arrest, their chance of survival falls by 7-10%. However, if CPR is performed in the first few minutes of cardiac arrest, the victim’s chance of survival can double.
Over the past months, members of the Smile Train Africa team have been traveling the continent to share life-saving skills across borders. Through these trainings, medical professionals learn how to quickly recognize life-threatening cardiac emergencies and deliver appropriate care to patients.
Speaking from experience, Ibrahim, an anesthesiologist and Smile Train trainer in BLS and PALS understands how crucial it is for medical staff to know how and when take action and save lives.
“There was an infant on the table suffering from bradycardia [a rapidly falling heart rate]. I came in and saw them trying to resuscitate him unsuccessfully. I quickly stepped in and applied what I learned during our Smile Train BLS training – to commence CPR as soon as the heart rate is below 60, with adequate ventilation. Within a few minutes, the patient was back," narrated Ibrahim. That day, he saved a life.
While Ibrahim was trained to ensure safe surgery for patients with clefts, there is no cleft-specific BLS and PALS training. The procedures taught to ensure safety for patients supported by Smile Train can help every patient facing a cardiac emergency. These important skills, however, are not universal, even amongst medical professionals, which is why Smile Train is committed to supporting our partners to host these trainings throughout the countries where we work, raising the standard of care for patients with clefts.
“The American Heart Association is a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives, but we can’t do it alone,” said John Meiners, Chief of Mission-Aligned Businesses and Healthcare Solutions. “It’s a team approach, with our volunteers and training centers like Smile Train that makes the difference in lives around the globe.”
For the trainers and participants, the AHA sessions instill confidence to utilize that knowledge in high-pressure situations when speed and teamwork are crucial. They are also empowered to train others, which in turn raises the standards of care for all patients in the communities where they live and teach. Hence, the impact of the training is not limited to the many cleft patients supported by Smile Train.
“[What I learned in the training] will give me more confidence in advancing into an emergency situation and sustaining patients with life support. I’ve got knowledge on quick and prompt ways to manage a patient, make sure they do not destabilize, to recognize signs of shock and respiration failure early, and to intervene.” says Wambui, a pediatrician who works with M.P. Shah Hospital, a Smile Train partner in Nairobi.