Cherie Howie is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Nurse so much more than a hero, says mum

Nerolie Curran does not use the word hero to describe the woman who saved her daughter's life. It's not enough. Sometimes there are no words.

But there is a bond, and it's just as strong now as it was a year ago, when general practice nurse Suze Natusch swam 40m, climbed on to a boat and saved 5-year-old Jasmine Curran's life.

"[The word] hero is an understatement," Mrs Curran said this week, about the day her middle daughter's heart stopped during a Bay of Islands boating trip. She had an undiagnosed heart rhythm disorder.

The words come easier now, as an inquisitive little girl sits between the two people who gave her life and the third who saved it.

"I remember looking into Suze's eyes [after the rescue] and I just had nothing to say. She said 'you don't have to say anything, I'm a mother'."

When Jasmine's heart stopped, it was awful realising they did not have the skills to help, said dad Simon Curran.

"To hear someone say they are trained in CPR, it was like a guardian angel had arrived ... our family knows Suze as 'the doctor in the bikini' from that day."

Mrs Natusch swam to their aid expecting to see someone with a cut. "I found Jasmine, not looking very well at all. I just started CPR. There was no talking."

There was thinking. On the mum of two's mind was her 10-year-old daughter, who had lifesaving heart surgery aged 3 months. That surgeon later fitted Jasmine with a personal defibrillator.

"I was thinking about my Evie."

Several minutes later two boys swam to the boat with a defibrillator supplied by local firefighters. Confident after a refresher CPR course taken three months earlier, and in which she specifically asked about using defibrillators on children, Mrs Natusch restarted Jasmine's heart.

"I was just glad I was there, to be able to do something and to give something back that somebody had given my daughter. If she hadn't had the surgeons and the specialists in hospital she wouldn't be here either," Mrs Natusch said.

The heart-shaped necklace Jasmine wears is a reminder of the bond between the families - it was a gift from Mrs Natusch and Evie.

Jasmine's family want to give back too. Older sister Boh, 8, started a fundraiser for a defibrillator at Westmere School, with $1500 already secured towards the $2500 cost. Cleo, 3, wants to be a nurse.

Jasmine's parents want to encourage others to learn "quality CPR" and how to use defibrillators and to increase the number of the life-saving machines.

"Every year in New Zealand there are 1600 cardiac arrests, 90 per cent of which end in fatality. That death toll is three times the road toll every year and incredibly that statistic is reversible because with quick access to a defibrillator and quality CPR your chance of survival gets as high as 70 per cent."

As Jasmine recovered in hospital, a nurse said her survival was a miracle, Mr Curran said.

"We benefited from a series of miracles and if they hadn't happened we wouldn't have Jasmine.

"Our focus is finding out [why] she survived, and part of that is ... raising awareness of the need of quality CPR and access to defibrillators" to help more families.

Cardiac aid

• For every minute without CPR or defibrillation, a cardiac arrest patient's chance of survival falls by 10 to 15 per cent.

• One in five cardiac arrests occur in public.

• 64 per cent of patients received CPR from bystanders, but only 4 per cent were defibrillated using a public access defibrillator.

• A cardiac arrest is allocated the highest response and the closest responder is immediately dispatched, but it is bystanders who need to initiate the "chain of survival" with immediate recognition, early CPR and rapid defibrillation. This can increase a patient's chance of survival by up to 40 per cent.

Source: St John 2015 Cardiac Arrest Report

- NZ Herald

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