Gone for 13 minutes – then my boy came back to life!

'He was like a rag doll'

Richelle’s beautiful son Jasper was saved from the brink of death by their neighbour

We need to make sure we’re saving water,’ I told my kids, Scout, then 10, and Sunny, seven.

It was summer 2019, and we were in the midst of a terrible drought and horrendous bushfires.

My husband, Shawn, 48, and I were keen to teach the kids how to help.

So I was showing them a collapsible bucket we’d set up in the shower to collect any excess drops, which we could use to water the garden.

A week later, I was in the kitchen cutting up mango for Jasper, my youngest who’d just turned one.

After eating it, he played happily while I rang my eldest, Nicholas, 21.

Everyone was home, and I had no worries about Jasper’s safety anywhere the house.

I’ve baby-proofed it, I thought.

Our little fighter Jasper

At 16 months, Jasper, who was born with Down syndrome, had just learnt to walk.

There were locks on all the cupboard doors, and gates on the stairs, and I’d made sure any medication, plastics bags, and even the dog’s water bowl were safely out of reach.

But I hadn’t thought about the shower bucket…

Then, I heard Sunny scream.

‘Jasper won’t stay up! He was in the water,’ she yelled.

Hanging up the phone, I ran to the bathroom.

The tub of water in the shower was still shuddering after Sunny had pulled her baby brother out of it.

It had never crossed my mind he’d go in the shower. And he could only have been in there a minute.

Now, he was sitting on his bottom, head lolling to the ground as he flopped in half like a rag doll.

I grabbed him instantly and two things hit me.

The first was his colour. I’d never seen anything like it.

He was a grey blue from head to toe. Even his lips were grey.

And second was his eyes. They were wide open but there was nothing there. He was gone.

‘Shawn, call an ambulance,’ I screamed.

Jasper spent time in hospital after the accident

As I carried him outside, I tried breathing into his lips.

Our neighbour Carolyn was a nurse.

She’ll know what to do, I thought, terrified.

Thankfully, she was in her garden.

Seeing me, she realised Jasper was lifeless in my arms.

Without any words, we put Jasper down on her deck and she started doing CPR.

She’s going to break his ribs, I thought, as she pounded on his tiny chest.

And then other, more terrifying thoughts came.

I can’t lose my baby.

‘I can’t find his pulse,’ Carolyn gasped, trying to feel for the vein in Jasper’s thigh and then going back to the CPR.

By now, Shawn was there too and we could hear the wailing siren in the distance.

Please don’t be too late, I willed.

Jasper had been the biggest surprise of my life, coming along after Shawn had a vasectomy.

After the shock came the joy for our whole family.

Jasper had to live – we couldn’t imagine life without our boy.

And then suddenly, 13 agonising minutes into the CPR, his eyes flickered.

‘I can feel a heart beat,’ Carolyn said, her hand on his chest.

Jasper gave a tiny sigh, and then he was sobbing.

The sound was incredible – my boy had come back to life!

Jasper with his sisters Sunny and Scout

Carolyn rolled him on to his side as the paramedics arrived.

I was in utter shock. Someone directed me to the ambulance and I sat there, numb.

Jasper was surrounded by people checking him, and I could hear him wailing for his mummy.

‘That’s a wonderful sound,’ a paramedic reassured me as I ached to go to him. ‘Listen to those strong lungs. He’s going to be fine.’

Later, at John Hunter Hospital, Jasper slept soundly while I fretted he had suffered lasting damage to his brain.

But miraculously, tests showed he hadn’t.

‘Jasper is very lucky,’ the doctor said. ‘His story could have ended very differently if there wasn’t someone to do CPR so quickly.’

Two days later, Jasper was back home, smiley and unscathed. But I was still reeling.

‘Thank you,’ I sobbed to Carolyn again as we embraced and I handed her flowers.

‘You’re not going to have to thank me every day!’ she smiled.

I nodded, but I knew I’d be thanking her silently every morning my Jasper woke up. Sunny too.

‘How did you find him?’ I asked her after the accident.

‘He went quiet,’ she said, So she’d gone to check. 

That’s what’s so chilling, drowning is silent.

I thought I’d done everything to keep my boy safe, but it took just a split second for a catastrophe to happen. So I want to warn others.

After the accident, I raised $1,200 for Hunter Heart Safe, a CPR teaching organisation and I’ve learned how to do it myself.

Kids can drown in 3cm of water – an esky full of melted ice, toilets, even a pet water bowl – so it’s important to be prepared.

We’re so grateful to still have our sweet boy, and I hope his story can save more lives.

Our family - we are so grateful to still have Jasper with us

CPR for youngsters

If the youngster isn’t breathing, tilt their head back so their chin is lifted.

✔ For a child, pinch their nose shut and place your mouth over theirs, and deliver two rescue breaths.

✔ For an infant, put your mouth over their mouth and nose. Blow for one second so their chest rises, and then give two rescue breaths.

✔ If they are unresponsive, give CPR.

✔ For children, put the heel of one hand in the middle of their chest and cover with your other hand if needed. Give 30 quick compressions, about a third of their chest height deep.

✔ For babies, use two fingers.

✔ Continue 30 compressions followed by two breaths until ambos arrive or the child responds.

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