I thought he was gone

By Kristin Edge

Monique Weber vividly remembers the horrifying moments when she discovered her 17-month-old son, Jeremy, face down in the garden fish pond.

But it was her quick actions in the crucial minutes that followed which saved her son's life on June 28.

For 15 years, the Dargaville mother has held a St John First Aid certificate and is well-versed in CPR.

"I got to the door and glanced at the pond and saw him in there," she recalls.

"I ran to him and grabbed his clothing and pulled him out. He was grey with purple lips. He wasn't even blue ... I thought he was gone already."

Clutching him in her arms, she ran to the kitchen, dialled 111 and lay Jeremy out on the floor and started CPR.

After a few compressions, she felt no resistance at all. "I thought he was dead."

She continued using her fingers to depress Jeremy's small chest in combination with a few breathes.

With the phone lying on the floor, she yelled to the emergency call-taker she needed an ambulance.

After about three minutes, Jeremy spluttered, coughed and then started to breathe on his own. "I've never been so happy to hear him cry," his mother said.

It was then local firefighters, ambulance and police arrived at the rural home near Tokatoka, Dargaville.

The priority then became keeping Jeremy warm and cleaning off the water weed he was covered in.

A team of St John officers worked on Jeremy in the back of an ambulance preparing him for a flight in the Northland Electricity rescue helicopter.

Jeremy was taken to Whangarei Hospital where he spent 24 hours in the Intensive Care Unit.

After six days on the children's ward, he was released home.

Ms Weber and her fiance, Steven Duff, had been trained specifically to do CPR on Jeremy, as he has a heart condition that stops him breathing sometimes.

However, Ms Weber said the St John first aid courses had given her the basics to do CPR on anyone. She recommended parents of toddlers learn the life-saving skill.

"You don't have to do it exactly right but you just have to do something. You've got to give it a shot. You don't want to be the parent who says they wish they had learned how to do it."

She also had another sobering warning for parents: "If you think you have a hazard round the home - fix it. Tomorrow might be too late."

She said covering the fish ponds had been on the "to do list". Since then, the ponds had been drained and covered.

"This has been a pretty harsh lesson not to share with other parents," Ms Weber said.

Northland St John district operations manager Wally Mitchell praised Ms Weber's quick actions and her ability to remain cool in what would have been a stressful situation involving her own child.

He could not emphasise enough the importance of being well versed in CPR.

"Because it saves lives and this is a perfect example. Evidence these days is that if you just do chest compressions that could [help] but that person [has] a chance at survival," Mr Mitchell said.

Ms Weber thanked all the emergency workers who responded so quickly to her call for help.

Water Safety New Zealand statistics show during the past five years there have been 41 drownings in New Zealand involving children under 5, including five in the Northland region. That also included two this year and one in the Far North.

- Northern Advocate

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