"I couldn't feel a pulse"
When 44-year-old PE teacher Frances’ quiet evening in was disturbed by a loud bang at her front door, her first thought was that it was a friend of her son’s messing around. But when the door flew open and a panicked woman screamed “do you know first aid?”, Frances knew she didn’t have time for questions. She charged straight out of her house and was met with a shocking scenario.
“I ran around the back of the house, and all of the family was there. The little girl, who is three, was just on the floor, just wet through. All of the family were screaming ‘please don’t let her die,’” recalls Frances. “I got down on my knees and I checked for a pulse, but I couldn’t feel one and she was extremely cold. She wasn’t responding, her eyes were glazed to the sky. It was quite a horrible expression.”
Without pausing to panic, Frances’ training kicked in. She administered rescue breaths and started resuscitation and CPR, gently compressing Maryam’s small chest with both hands. “Within a few moments, some water came out of her mouth and she came round, but she wasn’t fully conscious. She wasn’t crying or calling for her mummy or anything, and she was extremely cold.”
Frances got the child’s wet clothes off her, wrapped her in a blanket, took her inside where it was warm, and put her in a recovery position. She continued to push her stomach and slap her back till the little girl vomited several times. “It was like she fully came round then,” Frances remembers. It was only later that Frances learned that Maryam had fallen face-first into the family pond wearing a heavy jacket, and remained under water for a full two minutes. Fortunately, her aunt remembered that Frances is a teacher and raced to her house in the desperate hope that she might know how to help.
Without CPR, the chances of Maryam's survival were zero
“You sit in these first aid courses thinking, ’I won’t need to use any of this training’, but actually it was so important that night. I don’t know what would have happened if I hadn’t gone round”, Frances said. “When I went round, I just did it. I thought, I’ve got to do something. I remember dropping to my knees and giving CPR to her, but it didn’t hit me till I came home that people had been shouting and screaming at me, saying ‘save her, please save her’. I just blanked all of that out while I was looking after Maryam, making sure she was safe.”
CPR saved Maryam’s life during the agonising 20-minute wait for an ambulance to arrive. Without Frances’ quick actions and refusal to let fear stand in the way, the little girl’s chances of survival would have been zero. When the stakes were high, Frances didn’t think twice, she just tried – and Maryam’s family will never forget the terrible tragedy that was avoided because of it.
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