Mum says thanks to 000 hero
Ambo, grandad keep their cool to come to toddler’s rescue
“MY baby’s blue, he’s not breathing, he’s unconscious.”
This was the harrowing 000 call from a distraught Kristy Monson as she clung to the limp body of her young son, Jack.
But the traumatic story ends well and Ms Monson, right, has now met Ambulance Tasmania team leader Philippa Behrens, whose calm direction on the phone that day helped save the North-West toddler’s life.
TRIPLE-0 call takers deal with life and death emergencies every day and while it’s their professional duty to remain calm on the phone, some calls leave them shaken. When Philippa Behrens took a call recently about a toddler choking on a biscuit, she knew it was touch and go. Jack, then 13 months old, was unconscious and had stopped breathing. “As a call taker, choking is my worst nightmare because it’s such a time-critical event,” said Ms Behrens, from Ambulance Tasmania. “If I’m not able to help them dislodge it, he’ll pass, he’s not going to be alive … I was shaking all day afterwards.” The emergency, on August 30, was also mum Kristy Monson’s worst nightmare. “He was unconscious for about five or seven minutes, but it seemed like hours had passed,” the Smithton mum said. “I was yelling and crying but the poor [emergency call] lady stayed so calm while I shouted to her through the phone.”
While the long-term outcome of such calls is generally unknown for medical dispatch call takers, the two women met last week and took stock of their achievement: a healthy little Jack.
“To meet them is such an honour, we don’t usually get to hear what happens or see their faces,” said Ms Behrens.
Mrs Monson said her baby had never had any trouble with food before the emergency, and it was terrifying how quickly and silently he choked on the dry biscuit.
“He was watching kids cartoons happily and then he went silent … I checked on him because he was so silent and still, but he was already blue and was limp and floppy. I phoned my father-in-law who lived nearby and then I called triple-0.”
Ms Behrens, who is an emergency medical team leader, took the call about Jack to help out because the team was busy on other calls.
“Kristy was just screaming down the end of the phone: ‘my baby’s blue, my baby’s blue, he’s not breathing, he’s unconscious’.”
Ms Behrens said the mum was inconsolable, but it was fortunate Kristy had already called her father-in-law.
“She was crying and screaming and I was actually having a lot of trouble, but the saving grace was that the grandad arrived,” Ms Behrens said. “He came through the door, took over the call and did exactly as I told him.”
Grandad Leon Monson followed a rigorous procedure several times before it had any effect.
Mr Monson had to straddle the child while placing his hands just above the baby’s navel.
He was then instructed to push quickly into the child’s stomach, to push up air to dislodge the biscuit.
“This didn’t work for 3-4 repetitions, but I said just keep doing it until Jack can breathe. I just kept telling grandad to keep doing it.
“Then, after numerous tries, Jack took this enormous gasp and we all heard him. He took one breath in, but it wasn’t enough, [the biscuit] was still closing his airways.
“Grandad kept doing this motion and after a minute longer — which felt like 20 minutes — Jack let out a big cry. It had dislodged.”
Ms Behrens said the emergency dispatch team talked people through CPR procedures every day, “but it’s your worst nightmare when it’s a baby”.
Mrs Monson said she was enormously grateful.
“I can’t thank them enough. What they did was just amazing.”