Life-saver mum up for hero prize

Alex and baby Joel
Alex and baby Joel

A Wigan mum is in the running for national honours after saving the life of her newborn son.

Alex McHugh is a finalist in the Hero Parent of the Year Award category of the St John Ambulance Everyday Heroes awards.

She brought baby Joel back to life after he stopped breathing at just seven weeks old when the family were getting into the car after the school run.

The quick-thinking mother performed CPR until the ambulance arrived, thus preventing a tragedy.

By a huge and fortuitous coincidence, only a day before, Alex had watched the St John Ambulance Nursery Rhymes Inc video which teaches cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) for babies.

The terrifying incident came after Joel was antenatally diagnosed with congenital cystic adenomatoid malformation (CCAM): a foetal lung lesion which required surgery while Alex was still pregnant with Joel, and high risk surgery at three days old to remove most of his left lung.

Joel is now doing well and Alex has since campaigned to highlight the importance of first aid and CPR for babies.

She said: “You don’t ever think something like this will happen to you. It’s really important that everyone around babies and children know what to do in an emergency.”

She, husband Stephen and Joel had gone to pick up older son Tom from school in Winstanley in January last year when the medical drama began.

Mortgage adviser Alex said: “We were just putting Joel back in his car seat when Stephen screamed that he had gone blue. He had stopped breathing. We got him out as quickly as possible and, because it was pouring down, I rushed him to the nearby Winstanley precinct where a lady laid down her coat and I put him on the ground and began the CPR which, by a massive coincidence, I had only seen on a BBC news item the day before.

“With baby CPR you breathe into both the mouth and nose rather than pinch the nose and use criss-crossed fingers for chest compressions rather than the heel of the hand. I kept the CPR going for nine minutes until the paramedics arrived. It was only a minute before they did that he let out a little cry and we knew he had started breathing again.

“Because of the medical complications he has had it is hard to say whether this episode caused him damage but he seems OK. It happened again just two weeks later at the GP’s and even the paramedics thought he had died and were in tears. But he was successfully revived then too and, fingers crosses, there have been no further incidents since.

“I am so grateful I saw that film. We had watched a brief video in hospital several weeks before but it was the Nursery Rhymes Inc film which stuck and came in so desperately handy.”

Alex is one of five contesting the category and will attend a star-studded awards ceremony at the Hilton London Bankside in September. It will be hosted by TV presenter Katie Piper, who as an acid attack survivor and a parent understands the importance of having life-saving skills.

Anyone inspired to learn first aid is urged to visit www.sja.org.uk to find out more.