It was like a scene out of a film that unfolded in Tiruvarur's Mannargudi in Tamil Nadu, on the evening of Friday, December 3. A crowd had gathered around a young man, who lay unmoving on the road, his bike lying a few metres away. Everyone waited anxiously as a woman frantically, rhythmically pressed down on the man’s chest, trying to resuscitate him. After a tense couple of minutes, he finally moved – his life was saved by the woman who showed presence of mind by performing CPR on him in crucial moments.
The woman was 39-year-old Vanaja, a nurse from Tiruvarur's Mannargudi, who said that she “was just doing her job,” and was “happy to have saved a life.” Vanaja performed the life-saving cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on the 20-year-old man, and is being hailed for her presence of mind and timely action which helped save him. In a conversation with TNM, Vanaja recounts what happened.
On Friday evening, Vanaja was returning with her husband Anandan and two children, from a wedding function. The family was driving back to Mannargudi when a young man on a bike sped past them. Within seconds, the bike collided with a goat which was crossing the road and the rider fell on to the side. Vanaja says her husband immediately pulled over and she ran to see if the rider was okay.
“He was unconscious and was not moving. I tried to stimulate him and get him to wake up. But he was not responsive. When I checked his pulse, I found that it was very weak. So, I decided that CPR was the best thing to do,” she tells TNM. The 39-year-old had also dialled 108 to call an ambulance while she performed the CPR.
Within the first minute of CPR, the man responded, says Vanaja. However, to make sure that he did not slip back into a state of shock, she had to continuously perform CPR for 2-3 minutes. “I saw that he moved his limbs. Which was a good sign. And then suddenly he pressed my hand very tight, and I realised that he could feel me press his chest. He felt the discomfort [from the CPR]. This meant that he was conscious,” she added.
After the young boy opened his eyes, the couple shifted him to a place under the shade of a tree on the side of the road. “We gave him water and monitored his pulse. He was doing ok, although he had some facial injury. When the ambulance reached the location, he was taken to the Mannargudi Government Hospital for treatment. My husband, our kids and I followed the ambulance in our car because we wanted to make sure the man was doing ok,” she added.
The 20-year-old was kept under observation at the Mannargudi GH following which he was referred to the Trichy Medical College Hospital for scans to detect any fractures in his body.
On Saturday, December 4, visuals and photographs of Vanaja giving CPR to the boy went viral on social media and social media users lauded her on Facebook and Twitter. On Saturday, December 4, Tamil Nadu Health Minister Ma Subramanian also rang up the nurse and appreciated her timely actions. Several MLAs and one senior IPS officer too had contacted her to appreciate her.
However, the 39-year-old humbly stated that she was just doing her job. “It is not new for me. I was just doing my duty and there is nothing much to congratulate me on,” she said.
Explaining how she was able to identify that the man needed CPR, Vanaja said that she had attended sessions by the Tamil Nadu Accident and Emergency (TAEI) Care Initiative which taught medical practitioners how to perform a CPR.
After completing her Medical Recruitment Board examination, Vanaja started working in government medical services in 2015. She has been working as a staff nurse in the Mannargudi GH for the last six years. However, she still works as a contract employee, drawing Rs 14,000 a month.
Although the state Government promised to make contract nurses permanent after they complete two years, the 39-year-old and many of her colleagues have not yet been given permanent posts, she said. “Permanent positions have more security and as a permanent staff nurse, I will get paid RS 44,000,” she added.