Papa Wemba Died of a Cardiac Arrest: Here’s why you Should Care!

(c) getty images

The ‘voice of Africa’ is no more. The continent’s ‘king of Rhumba Rock’, Papa Wemba born Jules Shungu Wembadiowemba Pene Kikumba, died in the early hours of April 24. He collapsed 20 minutes into a live performance at the Urban Music Festival in the Ivorian capital of Abidjan and was later pronounced dead.

Pending an autopsy, medical sources revealed to Jeune Afrique.com that the artist, 66, suffered a cardiac arrest Jeune Afrique on the cause of Wemba’s death.

Papa Wemba had revolutionized Congolese Rhumba by blending it with Western pop, rock and rap music. His voice was unique and his style flamboyant. He popularized ‘La SAPE’- an eccentric, lavish and multi-coloured manner of dressing that aims at emphasizing elegance.

A dramatic footage appears to show the exact point at which he slummed to rise no more Footage of Wemba’s Stage collapse.

The Minute that Could have Saved his Life

Papa Wemba being made to sit up after collapse

Papa Wemba being made to sit up after collapse

A close look at the footage the shows how Papa Wemba slummed and what ensuing attention he received reveals a vital gap in first aid knowledge. As can be seen from the photograph, his first aiders tried desperately to sit him up, an act which medics believe is fatal for a person suffering a cardiac arrest.

Before going into what should have been done differently, let us dig into what a cardiac arrest is. In simple terms, a cardiac arrest happens when someone’s heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops pumping blood around their body. They, then, lose consciousness almost immediately and show no other signs of life, such as breathing or movement. It is advised that when this happens to anyone around, medics should be called in immediately. However, there are a few simple tips which if followed could save the life in question. 

What are the signs of a Cardiac Arrest?

  1. A very sudden loss of consciousness
  2. No breathing
  3. No movement or any other signs of life 

With a cardiac arrest, every second counts and any wrong move or hesitation results in the death of the person concerned. There is an extremely brief time frame within which a person can be saved from a cardiac arrest, so action must be quick and specific. Here is what you can do to save the life of anyone in such a situation, or at least multiply their chance of survival:

Check for Signs of Consciousness

Tap or shake his or her shoulder and ask loudly ‘Are you OK?’ If he/she does not respond, then they are unconscious suffering a fatal condition. If there are two people available, ask the next person to call on parademics while you start applying the following life saving tips.

Urgently carry out a CPR (Cardiopulmonary resuscitation)

A cardiopulmonary resuscitation involves several uninterrupted chest compressions. Although people do get trained and certified on this technique, it is important for every lay person to have an idea of what to do in emergency situations. It is better to try than to helplessly watch a life pass away. According to MayoClinic. org, here’s how to conduct a CPR:

  • Put the victim on his/her back on a hard surfacehow to save lives with a CPR
  • Kneel next to the person’s head and shoulders
  • Place the heel of one hand over the center of the person’s chest, between the nipples. Place your other hand on top of the first hand. Keep your elbows straight and position your shoulders directly above your hands.
  • Use your upper body weight (not just your arms) as you push straight down on (compress) the chest at least 2 inches (approximately 5 centimeters). Push hard at a rate of about 100 compressions a minute.
  • If you haven’t been trained in CPR, continue chest compressions until there are signs of movement or until emergency medical personnel take over. If you have been trained in CPR, go on to checking the airway and rescue breathing See how to conduct a CPR.
  • CPR is known to be safe for all persons excluding new borns.

This fairly simple technique is worth a life, especially in Africa where  cardiac arrests are becoming an important cause of death. 

Back to Papa Wemba

Now that we have an idea about what should be done if someone suddenly stops breathing we can discuss what should have been done differently in Papa Wemba’s case. The picture above shows the collapsed artist being put in a sit-up position, which is an absolute ‘don’t’ for a person in that condition. That position not only complicates breathing but also the flow of fluids throughout his body and the result can only be death.

There are claims that the African Music icon had died before falling to the ground that night and I am in no position to dispute that. Nonetheless, I believe that the right approach would have given him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he would have survived it, maybe not. The most essential thing is to know what to do if ever it happens around you. 

About the Author

Vandoline NKWAIN
Vandoline Nkwain is a journalist and cross-cultural communications professional. Having a strong academic and professional background, she aims at using The Afro-Report to trigger positive change in Africa. Experience tells that stories told by real people empower more than blind mass accounts of events. Therefore, using testimonies as a base, Vandoline recounts real people's struggles and success stories to enable others rise above their confines. She does not only tell the news, but mobilises you to act upon it to make a difference. 'We are the future' is her watchword.

13 Comments on "Papa Wemba Died of a Cardiac Arrest: Here’s why you Should Care!"

  1. Ngepu Kiawi | 2016-05-07 at 7:10 am | Reply

    This is really a serious issue which has to be emphasized. In my opinion, every adult should be trained on how to perform CPR because it could save someone’s life. We just lost a Cameroonian midfielder Patrick Ekeng-Ekeng on May 6, 2016 who collapsed on the field during a match in Romania as a result of a heart attack. According to media sources, he did not receive any form of massage to the chest on the field before he was transported to the hospital. During a heart attack, every second counts. A massage to the chest would have helped to increase blood circulation and air flow. Please put more light on this subject matter. It is quite tragic.

    • Dear @Ngepu Thank you for your interest in this story. Patrick Ekeng’s case is one too many, like you noted. I believe it is time everyone learnt how to deal with heart emergencies like these. I hope that you find our other stories equally interesting. Please do come back and please do not forget to subscribe for more stories like this. Thanks for your visit to the Afro-Report.

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