9 year-old Monique of Belle Vue Chopin Primary School with Patricia Rennel

A screech of tires…BOOP!…a sickening thud.

From that moment everything was surreal. My 4 year-old baby brother was following me. WHERE’S MY BROTHER???!!!

The answer flew past me in slow motion like in a Matrix movie. His limp little body hit the road 25 feet ahead, flopping over a few times before ending up in a motionless, tangled heap. That picture remained forever seared and sayzi in my memory. I dashed to his side, ditching my morning pail of water just collected from the public pipe. But fishermen got there first. With fishmongers wailing in the background, they snatched the hapless child and raced off to the nearby sea in Lotbor. They plunged him beneath the surface. (Sea water is good for everything in Dominica). The sputtering child was then bundled into a private car and rushed to Princess Margaret Hospital.

Élas! They meant good. But based on what we know today, they violated every accepted rule for first responders. Fast forward 50 years: What Patricia Rennel experienced was similar in a different way. She had relocated to Dominica because of scuba, which she relishes three times a week. But a couple years ago, when an unfortunate foreign national drowned off the Layou coast while fishing, crowds of onlookers just stared at the body. No one attempted to revive the victim. The incident moved the retired Arizona teacher and her husband Steve to purchase practice dummies and teach Dominican students CPR free of charge. Nobody told them to do that. It is all their own initiative, totally voluntary, out of the goodness of their hearts.

The Seattle Experience

For years the city of Seattle, Washington, USA, boasted of being the best place in the world to have a heart attack. That was because its validated claim of having the highest percentage of its population trained in CPR. That did not happen by random – like the weather. It was intentional and totally voluntary. The PEOPLE decided to make it happen.

With Dominica’s small and educated population, it should be even easier to make this happen. Not to mention we have two medical schools on the island. Oh, btw, how many countries with populations less than 100, 000 have two medical schools? Take your time… Aha! I thought so! See? We already have what it takes. All we need is the desire, the will and the belief that together we can create something special.

Consider also, we have a vibrant Red Cross organization, a highly functional Office of Disaster Management which in fact just certified 121 lifesavers. At the pinnacle sits the Fire and Ambulance service, which under Chief Dupuis has been growing from strength to strength.

The Kingshill Declaration

Follow me closely. You may find this almost magical – how this all came about: Students of All Saints University are proud to be studying in Dominica, their adopted home for a season. Besides a world-class medical education, Student Body President, Nigerian Jazreel epitomizes their desire to bloom where they are planted. They give back, not only in regular on campus health fairs, but they also go out to where the people are. They assist in rendering free health checks and medical advice, Saturday mornings at the Roseau Market.

African All Saints student doctors Vivian and Cristabel  (who was studying in Ukraine) with Monique and mom.

African All Saints student doctors Vivian and Cristabel
(who was studying in Ukraine) with Monique and mom.

A couple months ago, upon climbing Jack’s Walk, I met Trinidad-born Rev. Dr. Leon Collymore at the summit of Morne Bruce. We shared ideas about wellness and spirituality, and became fast friends. By sheer coincidence, I had asked Patti Rennels about her interests when she came to Urgent Care for a dog bite. Upon finding out her good intentions, we agreed on a church service at the Kingshill Baptist Church where Dr. Collymore pastors. It was there, last Sunday, that the Lord laid it upon our hearts to make Dominica the #1 country in the world with percentage population trained in life saving.

It depends on you

The logistics of this bold vision is still being worked out. But given the passion of everyone so far, there’s every confidence that within 3 years, we will claim unprecedented success.

It seems that everyone has a quota of being involved in at least one potentially fatal accident in his or her lifetime. Have you had yours? Like our brave fireman footballer who had to assess his own team mates then rescue himself from the precipice, when that time comes, the life you save could be your own. More likely, it will be some loved one or acquaintance.

Forget about traffic accidents for a while; forget drowning. What would you do if someone you were eating with began choking on her food? You see that universal sign of distress: clutching the neck – mouth opened wide, unable to speak – eyes bulging with fear. You want to help, but you don’t have a clue what to do. In a panic, you scream, “Somebody do something!” She’s turning blue. She passes out. Unlikely scenario? Albert, my good friend from Fond Cani, told me that exact story at our recent Market Doctor program. Fortunately he knew what to do. (If you don’t do anything else, click here on Heimlich maneuver) His story had a good ending. It goes without saying that Albert is 100% on board with the program.

Notwithstanding the primitive assistance rendered, my baby brother’s story of yesteryear had a good ending as well. Gaibu is now a giant of a man, with an appetite for national development to match. We are confident the he and many, many patriots like him, at home and abroad, will put their shoulders to the wheel to help make this vision a reality. Trust me, we cannot do this alone. We will need all the help we can get. Your infusion of insight and energy is vital.

Patty Rennels demonstrates CPR to policeman and passerby.

Patty Rennels demonstrates CPR to policeman and passerby.

Certain professions require training in CPR: nurses, doctors, fire officers, tour guides, scuba instructors and so forth. We are indeed grateful for Dominica’s solid heritage in resuscitation. Forget what you have heard about the ‘golden hour’ for rescue. If the airway is not cleared in 4 minutes, start writing the obituary.

Listen to me carefully: I’d rather have someone with free, grassroots training to be on the spot when I’m in distress, than all the qualified personnel who may NOT be available. Do I hear an Amen? Consider what it will mean to our international reputation when the Nature Isle becomes known for not only for being the best place to relax and recharge, but also the fastest place in the world to be revived as well.

When the learning train stops at your station, don’t hesitate to get on board. In every school, in every church, in every village, in every organization, we are going to big up those who were the first to organize and qualify. Pictured above is 9 year-old Monique of Bellvue Chopin Primary School who was the first to undergo such training. Now you – yes you – are going to make all the difference. Call Urgent Care or click here today to help make Dominica sparkle as the number one country in the whole world for life saving.

Dr. Sam Christian is surgeon who runs the Urgent Care on 137 Bath Road. It offers general medical care, office surgery, acupuncture and microdermabrasion. He is Medical Adviser to the Dominica Cancer Society, Grotto Home for the Homeless and author of the faith and fitness nutrition book, ‘Mannafast Miracle.’ Dr. Christian can be reached anytime at 440-9133