As the little boy lying in a supermarket parking lot stopped breathing, Summar Tasker sprang into action to save his life.
An impulsive decision to stop at the Pak ‘n Save supermarket on Moorhouse Ave, Christchurch, on Thursday morning quickly turned into a dramatic life or death situation for the 21-year-old outdoor adventure guide.
It was “a pure coincidence” that she was there.
“I came for the day from the West Coast to have my wisdom teeth extracted,” Tasker said. “I was planning to go home, but all the roads were closed due to flooding, so I went to the supermarket to buy some soft food.”
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Approaching the entrance to the supermarket, she noticed a group of people “standing” in the parking lot.
“Something was wrong. I went and said ‘what’s going on?’ A little baby, just under a year old, had choked on a marshmallow,” she said.
“They were trying to dislodge what was in his throat. I went and started my first aid as I was taught to do. He started getting very blue, unresponsive and not breathing, so that’s when I started CPR.
The little boy was placed on a singlet on the floor before Tasker performed CPR on his small chest in front of his ‘distraught parents’.
“I don’t know how long I did CPR, it’s hard to tell how much time passed, but I finally heard a gurgling sound, a puff of air and his eyes started moving, and that was the biggest relief ever,” Tasker said.
“He started breathing again and I was like ‘oh, thank God’. That’s when the ambulance came, it was the right time.
There were “15 to 20 people” around when Tasker arrived on the scene.
“Everyone wanted to help, but nobody knew about CPR. Big thanks to everyone else there, it was a group effort – people ringing the ambulance, people sorting through traffic, a lady helping hold her head up, clearing the lanes breathing, someone comforting their parents and crowd control.
She had since been contacted by the baby’s grateful father, Grant Smith, after Smith posted the following plea online:
“To whoever helped us at Pak ‘n Save Moorhouse before the ambo and firefighters arrived and did the chest compressions on our son because he was choking, you are a godsend. I can’t help you. thank you enough from the bottom of my heart.
Tasker was identified less than 10 minutes after Smith posted his heartfelt message.
“He was able to tell me they were in the hospital and the baby is fine,” Tasker said.
“I really feel for the family, it’s such an easy thing to do…the little ones always grab things with their little fists so fast.”
She said she felt her “heart leap” in sadness when Smith told her he had already lost a child in tragic circumstances.
Her 8-month-old son Jayden Harris died when a television fell on him in the 2011 Christchurch earthquake as he slept in the living room of his Riccarton home.
A St John’s spokesperson said paramedics were called to a medical incident in Sydenham at 9.42am on Thursday. An ambulance and a rapid intervention unit intervened.
One person was taken to Christchurch Hospital in serious condition.
St John’s first aid training manager Julian Price stressed the importance of recognizing when someone needs help and acting quickly.
“If you’re trained in first aid, follow the appropriate steps you’ve been taught based on the situation and the patient,” Price said.
“In an emergency, call 111, request an ambulance and stay on the line and follow the instructions of the emergency call manager. If you don’t know how to perform CPR, the emergency call manager on the line will guide you.
Tasker was trained in pre-hospital emergency care for her role and recently completed a first aid refresher course.
“You have all this first aid training, but you never think you’ll have to use it, let alone on a baby,” she said.
“It was definitely a case of the right time, right place. I hope my experience will encourage people to learn first aid – you never know when someone will need your help.
St John runs in-person and online first aid training courses. To make a reservation visit www.stjohn.org.nz/firstaid