Surrounded by frothy bubbles, my daughter Olivia splashed and giggled in the tub.
Just an hour before, my little girl had been a bit out of sorts with a cold. But I knew bath time was just the thing to bring back her smile.
At 14 months old, Olivia just loved playing with her ball in our cast-iron tub.
As the water started to go cold, I leant over to scoop her into a towel.
Usually, Olivia pulled the plug herself. But tonight, she didn’t.
As I picked her up, I realised something was wrong. Olivia’s right arm wasn’t moving.
Peering into the tub, I saw her hand was in the plughole.
She must have pulled the plug already and put her hand over the drain, I realised.
Pushing the bubbles to the side, I tried to get a better look.
As the water gurgled away, I realised my baby’s fingers had disappeared down the drain too!
Olivia let out a whimper as I gently tried to pull her hand from the plughole.
It wouldn’t budge! She’s stuck, I realised, horrified.
Olivia’s index, middle and ring fingers were all tightly wedged in the plughole, while her little finger was just small enough to wriggle free.
My girl began to cry as she realised she was wedged in place.
‘It’s all right,’ I said, my heart racing. ‘Mummy will get you out.’ Grabbing some liquid soap, I poured it down the drain, desperately trying to ease out her fingers.
When they still wouldn’t move, I started to panic.
What if her fingers were turning blue? What if they had to be amputated? I grabbed my phone and called Triple-0.
‘My baby’s fingers are stuck in the drain,’ I cried.
The operator kept me calm and said help was on the way.
I hung up and called my partner Tim, 30, who was at a business meeting. ‘I’m coming home right now,’ he said, worried.
While I waited for help, I kept trying to free a now grisly Olivia but it was no use.
After 20 minutes, the firies and paramedics arrived.
They shone a torch into the drain to check on Olivia’s fingers. ‘They’re okay,’ someone confirmed.
The blood supply was being a little restricted, so her fingers were darker than usual.
But she wasn’t in any danger of losing them. I breathed a huge sigh of relief.
For the next half an hour, the firies used industrial lubricants to try and free Olivia.
Still, her fingers were wedged tight.
By now, Tim had arrived home and together, we did our best to comfort our girl.
‘We’re going to try and cut the drain,’ a fireman said, explaining they needed to use a small saw to cut the metal.
‘It’s okay baby,’ I soothed, as Tim held Olivia still.
Nerves swirled inside me as the sharp blade glinted close to our girl’s little fingers.
Suddenly, Olivia cried out. I saw a flash of crimson blood as the saw nicked the skin on her hand.
‘It’s time for plan B,’ the firies decided.
Because Olivia was trapped, a specialist team had also responded to the emergency call.
They were more used to freeing people from mangled cars than from plugholes.
‘We’re going cut the drain out of the bath,’ they advised.
Olivia and the drain could then be taken to hospital where she could be sedated while it was removed.
Climbing into the tub with my baby, I gently stroked her hair. ‘It’ll be all right,’ I soothed as she cried.
Soon, Olivia was so worn out that she fell fast asleep, despite the mayhem around her.
Tim and I took turns to sit with her while the firies worked. Because the bath was an old cast-iron tub, it was difficult to saw through.
And at around 10.30pm, four hours after Olivia became trapped, it was time for drastic action.
‘The bath is too tough to saw,’ the fireman told me. ‘We’re going to have to take out the whole tub!’
Getting to work with sledge hammers, they smashed the tiles and destroyed everything holding the bath in place.
The noise woke Olivia and she started crying as Tim and I tried to shield her from the flying debris.
When the firies finally reached the drain pipe, there was more bad news.
There wasn’t enough pipe between the tub and floorboards for it to be cut safely.
Olivia’s fingers were still dangling into the pipe and there was a risk she’d be hurt again if they started sawing. So they headed to the unit downstairs to reach the pipe from there.
Finally, six hours after Olivia got into the bath, we received good news. ‘The pipe’s been cut!’ someone called.
With the drain now free, the firies tipped the tub on its side with Olivia still inside. Then they freed the plughole.
With the drain still dangling from Olivia’s fingers, Tim and I pulled her into a hug.
The three of us, and the drain, were taken to hospital by ambulance.
Olivia was quickly sedated and the medics got to work.
Eight hours after she got stuck, Olivia was finally free!
When she woke up around 6am, we were given the all-clear and headed home. ‘Wow,’ I gasped, walking into the devastated bathroom. It was a terrible mess.
Two weeks later we got a new bath.
This time, it’s got a very heavy plug!
I still can’t believe a splash about before bed turned into such an emergency.
Thankfully Olivia is back to her happy and contented self.
She still loves hopping into the tub, we’ll just keep an even closer eye on her from now on.
Tim and I have vowed bath time will never be a drain again!
Originally published in that's life! Issue 20 - May 12, 2016