It is every parents’ worst nightmare – your precious child is one minute playing happily, and the next choking and gasping for breath.
This has happened to Myleene Klass, not once, but twice.
Firstly, her then one-year-old daughter Hero started to choke on a glow-in-the-dark plastic star.
Then, when her eldest daughter Ava was 10, she started to choke on a piece of calamari she was eating during a family meal.
Luckily for both girls, mum Myleene was able to spring into action and save them because she had been trained in First Aid.
And with baby son Apollo now weaning and putting things in his mouth, the TV and radio presenter decided the whole family needed a first aid refresher course, so asked St John Ambulance volunteers to come round to teach them the life-saving skills she believes every adult and child should have.
Myleene, 41, says: “Doing a first aid course with my family is so important because I’ve had to use what I’ve learnt a number of times.
“Until first aid is officially taught in schools I want to know that my children are armed with the knowledge and confidence that they could save a life if called upon to do so.
“Like my daughter Ava pointed out ‘there’s no point just one of you knowing how to do it’. First aid should be as compulsory as English and maths.
“Those who know me know how strongly I feel about learning some basic first aid. I’ve had to use it on both my daughters – terrifying, on a woman on a plane, on a train, on an old man in the street.
“It means that whilst it might be scary to be faced with a life or death situation, it also means you have a better chance of not being helpless and most importantly, being able to save your loved ones.
“I got my family in on it this time as having a little baby means we need to all be ready to help him.”
Myleene’s daughter Ava was 10 when she started to choke during a holiday meal.
Myleene recalls: “It was awful. She went completely silent and her eyes popped out of her head. I performed back thrusts – I just hit her over and over again.
“I bawled my eyes out. She was fine, she even went back to eating her squid.
“When Hero choked, she was one. She swallowed a glow-in-the-dark star. She vomited it up the first time I performed the back thrusts with her over my arm. Same silence, went blue, eyes popped out of her head. I cried like a banshee afterwards.
“She toddled off, wouldn’t even let me hug her…just went off to find her toys. It happened that quickly.”
Myleene and her girls, now aged 12 and eight, were put through their first aid paces by St John Ambulance volunteers, learning everything from what to do if someone chokes, to how to put a person in the recovery position and how to perform CPR on both adults and babies.
Myleene posted the whole session to her Instagram stories in a bid to encourage others to learn what to do in an emergency.
She was inundated with responses from people who said she’d inspired them to take a first aid course, or who had already had to use their own first aid training to save someone’s life.
And just the day after her family’s first aid training, Myleene and her girls were able to put their new skills to the test when an elderly lady collapsed on the train they were travelling on.
Myleene explains: “The train was stopped and an emergency call went out asking for anyone who could assist. We were able to help her until the doctors arrived.
“Hero had her first aid bits in her bag. Maybe we’re more aware because of the course. Either way, so proud of my little, kind-hearted heroes.”
So what should you do in a medical emergency? Here St John’s Ambulance provides guidelines.
What to do if an adult or a child is choking
Encourage them to cough and remove any obvious obstruction from their mouth.
If coughing fails to work, you need to give five sharp back blows.
Help them lean forwards, supporting their upper body with one hand.
With the heel of your other hand give them five sharp back blows between their shoulder blades.
After each back blow, check their mouth and pick out any obvious obstruction.
Do not sweep the mouth as this could push the object further down the throat.
If back blows fail, give five abdominal thrusts.
Stand behind them and put your arms around the waist.
Place one hand in a clenched fist between their belly button and the bottom of their chest.
With your other hand, grasp your fist and pull sharply inwards and upwards up to five times.
Check their mouth again, each time.
If the blockage has not cleared, call 999 straight away.
Repeat five back blows and five abdominal thrusts until help arrives, rechecking their mouth each time.
If they become unresponsive at any point prepare to start CPR.
How to perform CPR on an adult
1. Call 999/112 for emergency help.
2. Give 30 chest compressions at a rate of 100-120 per minute. Kneel by the casualty and put the heel of your hand in the middle of their chest, and your other hand on top of the first. Interlock your fingers making sure they don’t touch the ribs.
Keep your arms straight and lean over the casualty. Press down hard, to a depth of about 5-6cm before releasing the pressure, allowing the chest to come back up.
3. Give 2 rescue breaths. To do this, open the airway by placing one hand on the forehead to tilt the head back and use two fingers from the other hand to lift the chin.
Take the hand from the forehead and pinch the soft part of the nose closed. Allow the mouth to all open. With the head still tilted, take a breath in and place your mouth over the casualty’s forming a seal.
Blow into their mouth for one second, until the chest rises. Take your mouth away and watch the chest fall. If the chest doesn’t rise, check the airway is open. If unable, or unwilling just give chest compressions.
4. Repeat. Continue to give 30 compressions and 2 breaths until help arrives.
How to do CPR on a child
1. Call 999.
2. Place them on a firm surface and open their airway as for a baby.
3. Give five initial rescue breaths. Take the hand from the forehead and pinch the soft part of the nose closed. Allowing the mouth to fall open. With the head still tilted, take a breath and put your mouth around the child’s, to make a seal. Blow into their mouth gently and steadily for up to one second, until the chest rises. Remove your mouth and watch the chest fall. That’s one rescue breath. Do this five times.
4. You will then need to give 30 chest compressions. Kneel by the child and put one hand in the centre of the child’s chest. Push down a third of the depth of the chest. Release the pressure allowing the chest to come back up. Repeat this 30 times at a rate of 100 to 120 compressions per minute.
5. After 30 compressions, open the airway and give two breaths. Keep alternating 30 compressions with two breaths until, emergency help arrives and takes over, the child starts showing signs of life and starts to breathe normally, or a defibrillator is ready to be used.
6. If the child shows signs of becoming responsive such as coughing, opening eyes, speaking, and starts to breathe normally, put them in the recovery position. Monitor their level of response and prepare to give CPR again if necessary. If you have used a defibrillator, leave it attached.
How to perform CPR on a baby
1. Call 999.
2. Place them on a firm surface and open their airway by placing one hand on their forehead and very gently tilt their head back. With your other hand use your fingertip and gently lift the chin.
3. Give five initial puffs. Take a breath and put your mouth around the baby’s mouth and nose to make a seal and blow gently and steadily for up to one second.
The chest should rise. Remove your mouth and watch the chest fall. That’s one rescue breath, or puff. Do this five times.
If their chest doesn’t rise, check the airway is open.
4. You will then need to give 30 pumps. Put two fingers in the centre of the baby’s chest and push down a third of the depth of the chest. Release the pressure allowing the chest to come back up.
Repeat this 30 times at a rate of 100 to 120 pumps per minute.
The beat of the song ‘Nellie the Elephant’ can help you keep the right rate.
5. After 30 pumps, open the airway and give two puffs. Keep alternating 30 pumps with two puffs until emergency help arrives and takes over, the baby starts showing signs of life and starts to breathe normally.
6. If the baby shows signs of becoming responsive such as coughing, opening their eyes, making a noise or starts to breathe normally, put them in the recovery position.
Monitor their level of response and prepare to give CPR again if necessary.
How to put adult/child in the recovery position
1. Place their nearest arm at a right angle to their body with the elbow bent.
2. Place the back of their far hand against their cheek. Hold it there.
3. Pull the far knee up until their foot is flat.
4. Pull on the bent leg to roll them towards you.
5. Tilt their head back to open airway.
6. Call 999/112 for emergency help.
How to use a defibrillator
1. Call 999.
2. Switch on the defibrillator Remove or cut through any clothing. Wipe away any sweat from the chest.
3. Apply the pads.
4. Follow the voice prompts given by the defibrillator.
5. Continue doing CPR between each shock.
6. If they become responsive, put them in the recovery position, leave the defibrillator pads attached, monitor level of response.
How to hold a baby in the recovery position
1. Cradle them in your arm with the head tilted downwards.
2. Call 999/112 for emergency help.
3. Monitor their level of response.
For more help and advice visit www.sja.org.uk