x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Boy's death prompts calls for teacher CPR training

No evidence of foul play found in the death of a 10-year-old boy with no history of heart problems who died of cardiac arrest after a Physical Education lesson.

DUBAI // Heart specialists have called for more thorough medical checks at schools and for all teachers to be trained in CPR following the death last week of a 10-year-old boy who collapsed during a Physical Education class.

Faisal Salem Al Kaabi was rushed to hospital on Thursday after suffering a heart attack at Hatta Elementary School, but was declared dead soon after arrival.

A report released by Hatta Hospital yesterday said its initial diagnosis was "cardio-respiratory arrest of an unknown cause".

The report said Faisal had arrived "unconscious and unresponsive". He did not have a pulse and his pupils were dilated and fixed. Medics carried out "vigorous resuscitative measures", but it was too late.

Specialists suspect an underlying condition such as a congenital defect may be to blame. Signs of such defects, they say, might have been picked up if children were given more thorough medical checks at school. Pupils could then be sent for further investigation.

Dr Abhay Pande, a consultant cardiologist at the Al Zahra Private Medical Centre in Dubai, said the most likely cause of a heart attack at the age of 10 was an irregular heart rhythm, or arrhythmia.

He said a more rigorous medical examination might have uncovered the problem before it was too late.

"Also, many such conditions are genetic," said Dr Pande. "So parents' history should have been taken into consideration."

Dr Nooshin Bazargani, a cardiologist at Dubai Hospital, said schools should encourage parents to share all medical records so teachers could take precautions and ensure there was no excessive exertion when appropriate.

"Everyone should know how to conduct basic CPR - especially school staff," she added.

Dr Wael Al Mahmeed, the president of Emirates Cardiac Society, said he hoped the child's family would now investigate their own health.

"The parents should get themselves and his brothers and sisters checked for any abnormalities," said Dr Al Mahmeed. "Symptoms of heart issues cannot always be identified but during check-ups doctors need to listen for murmurs or echoes that can be signs and must immediately be referred for further investigation."

He added: "There should also be a training programme for the public and especially school educators on CPR because they could save a life while waiting for the medical staff to arrive."

Faisal's principal, Salim Obaid, said the boy had been rushed to the hospital "within minutes" of his collapse, accompanied by the school nurse.

Mr Obaid said the Grade 4 pupil seemed to be in perfect health after his return from the Eid break.

"There was also no forced action - no one pushed or hit him, and our camera footage proves that," said the school principal. "He attended all classes that day and was standing alone at the time this happened."

Mr Obaid said the school was shocked by the loss of the pupil, who was a football enthusiast. "He spent more time on the field than he did in the classroom," said the principal in a speech to his classmates yesterday. "He will be missed."

Tayfir Nassar, an English teacher at the school, said Faisal's classmates and teachers visited his family this week to pay their condolences. "It is fate and we are offering all our support to the parents."

Faisal was buried the day after his death in accordance with Islamic tradition. No autopsy was conducted.

aahmed@thenational.ae