Warboys couple hail “guardian angel” who helped save toddler’s life after he stopped breathing

Left to right: Buddy, Lewis, Jim, Kirsty and Bonnie. Rear: Jim's wife, Tina.

Left to right: Buddy, Lewis, Jim, Kirsty and Bonnie. Rear: Jim's wife, Tina. - Credit: Archant

A Warboys couple whose two-year-old son’s life was saved by a St John Ambulance ‘guardian angel’ are now determined to learn emergency first aid and are urging all new parents to do the same.

Jim Smith with Buddy.

Jim Smith with Buddy. - Credit: Archant

Kirsty and Lewis Mulholland believe parents should equip themselves with life saving skills so they never have to suffer the feelings of blind panic and helplessness they experienced when their son, Buddy, stopped breathing.

It was the evening of January 28, when they found themselves faced with the kind of nightmare life or death situation which they thought only happened to other people.

Earlier in the day Kirsty had taken their nine-month-old daughter Bonnie to the doctor who diagnosed hand, foot and mouth viral infection. By the afternoon, it seemed Buddy was suffering from the same infection as he was lethargic and off his food.

Kirsty gave him some medication to bring down his temperature before putting him to bed. She’d just finished reading him his bedtime story when he suffered a febrile convulsion.

“His eyes rolled back in his head, his jaw was locked and he was fitting,” said Kirsty. “I ran downstairs with him, shouting at Lewis to call an ambulance. Everything was a blur at the time but all I could think of was that I had to get him to my neighbour who works for St John Ambulance.”

Without stopping to put her shoes on, Kirsty ran across her garden to the home of St John Ambulance trainer Jim Smith who lives two doors away. Before she reached Jim’s house, Buddy stopped breathing.

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Jim, 64, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last year, was at home resting after recent surgery to remove his pancreas and spleen.

“My wife Tina and I were watching television when there was a knock at the door and there was Kirsty with Buddy who was lifeless and not breathing,” he said.

“I grabbed the child and put him on the floor to assess him. He was completely unresponsive so I started resuscitation while Tina was looking after Kirsty. I gave him a couple of rescue breaths but didn’t get as far as chest compressions as he gave a sudden gasp and started breathing again.

“He opened his eyes and I called to his mum that he was OK. But then he lost consciousness again so I put him in the recovery position while we waited for the ambulance to arrive.”

Jim had been told by his doctors to ‘take things easy’ after his operation. He pulled a stomach muscle while reviving Buddy and has since started chemotherapy to destroy any remaining cancer cells.

He says: “I just did what needed to be done. It was lucky I was at home. If this had happened a week before Christmas I’d have been in the intensive care unit recovering from surgery.”

Jim has worked for St John Ambulance since 1988. As one of the charity’s workplace trainers, he teaches first aid to employees of local businesses and he’s also safeguarding manager for St John Ambulance’s East region, responsible for the safety and welfare of young volunteers and vulnerable adults.

“You just never think something like this is going to happen to you,” says Kirsty. “But now I know it can happen to anyone, anywhere at any time. I keep thinking about what would have happened if it hadn’t been for Jim. He’s my guardian angel and I’ll never be able to repay him.”

Kirsty and Lewis will be learning how to deal with common medical emergencies involving children when they attend a St John Ambulance emergency first aid course in the near future.

Earlier this year St John Ambulance launched its nursery rhyme-themed national awareness campaign to teach parents and the wider public how to save the life of a baby who’s stopped breathing.

The campaign was born out of new research showing this is the first aid emergency feared by most parents - yet only one in four know what to do.

As part of the campaign the charity is organising special baby first aid courses throughout the country. To see the campaign film, learn how to perform baby CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation) or to book a first aid course visit: www.sja.org.uk/NurseryRhymesInc