In October the British Heart Foundation have an annual campaign to make sure as many people as possible know how to “Restart a Heart”. Sadly, 8 week old baby Theo needed CPR when he stopped breathing – you can read his story later in the blog.
Teaching people to “Restart a Heart” is one of the main reasons Mini First Aid was set up. Tragically, Mini First Aid founder Kate’s brother Matt died of cardiomyopathy in his early 20s. Whilst celebrating the end of his university exams, Matt’s heart stopped beating and he died, surrounded by friends who were struggling to perform CPR. So when we say we are passionate about this subject, it isn’t just a word.
What is CPR and when should it be used?
CPR stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and it should be used on anyone who is unconscious and not breathing normally, after calling 999.
Why are CPR techniques different for adults and children?
There are many reasons why people might stop breathing and their heart stop beating. In adults it is usually due to a cardiac event meaning the heart is not pumping properly, whereas in children, it tends to be a respiratory problem that has affected their breathing – this is why rescue breaths are important.
We understand that performing CPR can be a really frightening situation to deal with. This is especially true when faced with a baby or small child who needs CPR, for fear of hurting them or doing the wrong thing.
REMEMBER: doing nothing is the worst thing you can do. In the next section we are going to talk you through the techniques to use, and don’t forget that after calling 999, you will be given basic life-saving instruction over the phone, to give you the confidence to proceed with CPR.
How to perform CPR
We've created 3 flowcharts to show you how to perform CPR - screenshot and save in case you ever need them:
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You can also watch Mini First Aid’s Kate demonstrating CPR techniques in the following videos:
We demonstrate the techniques to use on babies and children at our 2 hour Baby and Child First Aid course where you will get lots of opportunities to practise CPR on both baby and child sized manikins. This gives you a really good feel for the pressure you need to use in the chest compressions - many people are surprised at how forceful you need to be to save a life.
Real life story: when baby Theo stopped breathing . . .
Jen and her husband Joe recently attended a Mini First Aid class with our fantastic trainer Fran Brooman. When Fran started teaching the section on CPR she realised Jen was really upset. It turned out Jen’s husband Joe had recently saved their little boy Theo’s life by performing CPR, and understandably, both of them wanted to make sure they would know exactly what to do should the worst happen again.
Jen very bravely agreed to share her story with Mini First Aid for Restart a Heart day:
Hi Jen, can you tell us a bit about your lovely family please?
Myself and Joe have been together since we were 21 having met at Lancaster University. We live in Hemel Hempstead with our 20 month old son Theo. After having our 2020 wedding cancelled due to COVID we finally managed to get married on our third time lucky date. I was 9 weeks pregnant with Theo and only my parents and bridesmaids (and of course Joe!) knew, so he really took one for the team and drank for two whilst I ate for two!
I had a difficult pregnancy with a couple of bleeds which after a miscarriage the year before was really scary. We found out Theo was due in April 2022 but after going for a routine scan in February I was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia. Two days later (and 8 weeks early) Theo was born weighing just 2lbs 14oz - he was tiny and so beautiful. We spent a month in Watford's Neonatal Unit where we got the most amazing care. It was such a nerve wracking time but in mid-March we finally got to bring him home.
Can you tell me about about the day that Theo needed CPR Jen? What led up to it?
It was the day after Theo's official due date - we'd had a mini party with family the day before and I was just starting to feel a little more confident. My plans that day were to head out for the first time on my own with Theo for a little walk.
I remember being sat on the sofa with Theo's head on my shoulder. I had my hands on his back feeling him breathe. I remember the nurses telling us that sometimes a premature baby's breathing can be irregular which is frightening to watch - it's almost like they pause for a couple of seconds and then take a very deep breath. I noticed that he hadn't taken a deep breath so I pulled him off me calling his name and that's when everything becomes a bit of a blur.
Can you describe what happened to Theo during the emergency in your own words please Jen?
He went very pale and floppy. I remember screaming for Joe who was working upstairs. He came running down and took Theo off me, and I ran to get my phone and call 999. Joe was the one who performed CPR and brought our baby boy back. For that I can never thank him enough. I just froze - in terms of fight or flight, Joe was fight, I was flight. We both find this really hard to talk about. I don’t know how long it took for the ambulance to arrive but it felt like forever - I remember vividly hearing Theo cry when I was on the phone and the relief made me weak. I can't thank the emergency services enough - they sent two ambulances and a helicopter in case we needed to go to a different hospital. Seeing Theo in the ambulance was frightening, he was so tiny and it was very hard to take in what was going on.
It must have been absolutely terrifying for you and Joe, I can’t even imagine. What did the doctors think had happened to little Theo?
The doctors ran so many tests on Theo - it was hard to watch even though we knew he was in the best place. Eventually they concluded it must have been a urine infection that spread quickly as it was the only spike in any of the tests they ran. We spent a week in Watford’s Starfish ward where we had amazing care but I don’t think either of us slept the whole time we were there.
I’m not surprised Jen, it must have been so difficult. How is Theo doing now?
He's 20 months and it feels like he's learning and changing every day. He's a happy, cheeky little boy. I'm so proud of him, and of course Joe for the way he's handled everything since. Everyone focused on me as the mum and my mental health (I had 3 months of CBT which has been so helpful as I was really shaken up after what happened), but no-one focused on Joe, who had just as bad an experience, or even worse when you think he was the one who performed CPR.
It sounds like it’s been such a tough time for both of you. What made you both decide to do a Mini First Aid class?
It’s been something we've been wanting to do since Theo's incident but I haven’t felt mentally strong enough. As we're starting weaning now this felt like the right time, but I knew the CPR part would be really hard. I'm not just saying this, but we both thought Fran's class was so informative and really helpful - I'm so glad we did it. I'm even considering asking our parents to do the class so that if they're ever looking after Theo they'd know what to do in any type of emergency too.
That’s a great idea Jen – we get lots of grandparents attending our classes.
Finally Jen, what message would you like to send to other parents?
I think my message would be that preparing yourself and getting as much information and knowledge about these type of emergencies and what to do if they happen is so helpful. I hope that no other parent ever has to do CPR on their baby, but knowing that you know what to do in an emergency, even though it may not feel like it at the time, will make you feel so much better.
Jen, we think you and Joe are amazing. None of us know how we would react in an emergency and ultimately you were able to save your little boy’s life. And now you are encouraging other parents to learn life-saving CPR, such an inspiration.
It is like we always say at Mini First Aid, when it comes to first aid knowledge it is better to know it and not need it, than need it and not know it. That especially applies to learning CPR.
Stay safe everyone, all the best, Mini First Aid x
This is Matt, brother of Mini First Aid founder Kate Ball. Matt never got to find out he’d passed his degree with First Class honours. He never got to meet the love of his life. He never got to be an uncle to Kate’s 6 children. You can listen to our moving podcast about cardiomyopathy here.
This Restart a Heart day learn to save a life – it’s the reason Mini First Aid exists.
Sources: NHS England, British Heart Foundation
Our Super Safety Bundle!
Our Mini First Aid branded keyring hides a portable resuscitation mask which can be used when giving emergency CPR. As well as offering protection from cross-infection, the valve provides accuracy and control when giving CPR.
The super safety bundle also includes:
- Mini First Aid kit - recently shortlisted for Best Safety Product at the Mother and Baby Awards 2024
- Oops a Daisy or Elly Elephant hot and cold gel pack
- Tumble Tiger instant cold pack
- Savlon antiseptic cream
- Paediatric First Aid Made Easy