Sharing Skills, Saving Lives

29 January 2020 | Smile Train

Since March of 2019, Smile Train has partnered with the American Heart Association to offer Basic Life Support (BLS) and Paediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) training at our partner hospitals. Through these trainings, medical professionals learn how to quickly recognise life-threatening emergencies and deliver appropriate care to patients.

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.

Ibrahim, an anaesthesiologist and Smile Train trainer in BLS and PALS, knows how important it is that medical staff knows how and when take action for patients he has experienced it firsthand. “There was an infant on the table. I came in and saw them trying to resuscitate him. He was suffering from bradycardia [a rapidly falling heart rate], and they had been trying and trying…nothing was helping. I remembered what we were taught during the Smile Train BLS training, that as soon as the heart rate is below 60, despite adequate ventilation, you are supposed to commence CPR…so we commenced CPR. Within a few minutes, the patient was back."

Ibrahim Smile Train

That day, Ibrahim 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 they work, raising the standard of care for patients with clefts. Over the past months, the Smile Train Africa team has visited a different country each month, sharing skills across borders. 

“The American Heart Association is a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives,” said John Meiners, chief of mission-aligned businesses and healthcare solutions. “But we can’t do it alone. It’s a team approach, with our volunteers and training centres like Smile Train, that makes the difference in lives around the globe.”

Trainee performs compressions

Many of the trainers and attendees at the trainings conducted by the Smile Train Africa team, like Ibrahim, have witnessed the need for these skills in their own treatment facilities. The American Heart Association sessions provide knowledge and instill confidence to utilise that knowledge in high-pressure situations when speed and teamwork are crucial.

“[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 destabilise, to recognise signs of shock and respiration failure early, and to intervene.” says Wambui, a paediatrician who works with M.P. Shah Hospital, a Smile Train partner in Nairobi.

Class gathers around equipment

“I feel that if I pass [these skills] on to colleagues at work, from the janitor to the most experienced professor, that it will impact and improve patient safety.” said Anastasia, an American Heart Association trainer from a Smile Train partner hospital in Ghana.

And, for every participant, the training is ultimately about just that: patient safety.

“I chose to do anaesthesia because it’s about saving lives.” says Gideon, an anaesthesiologist from Smile Train partner Bela Risu Foundation in Kenya. “The things I’ve learned today can help me save more lives. Everyone needs to train.”

Smile Train will continue to conduct American Heart Association trainings across the 70+ countries in which our partners work, building capacity and strengthening health systems to ensure the highest quality of care for all.

Trainers and Trainees Kenya