Baby Blue

I came across this heartening story while browsing the BBC News site.

A mother from Bristol resuscitated her baby boy four times when he stopped breathing – with the help of a 999 operator on the phone.

Driving instructor Cordelia Nolan, 25, said she was “petrified” when her 10-week premature baby, Emrys, lost his colour and turned blue.

Ms Nolan started resuscitation straight away and a cousin dialled 999 and relayed the operator's instructions.

I'm glad that the baby is doing well. If the baby had stopped breathing then the mother did exactly the right thing.


I can usually count on a few 'Baby not breathing' calls each week the number of calls that I've actually been to when a child hasn't been breathing can, thankfully, be counted on the fingers of one hand*.

Often the 'child not breathing' is actually a child having a febrile fit, by the time we get there the fit has normally stopped and the child is either asleep or crying. It's scary but incredibly common, when an infection is spreading through my area it seems that the only calls I go to are for febrile children. I sometimes joke to parents that the only children that I see are either fitting or vomiting.

During a febrile fit a child can get blue lips, if a child holds their breath they can get blue lips – blue lips tend, on their own, to be 'not terribly worrying' on the scale of things us ambulance types worry about.

Rather obviously a child who has blue lips is a scary prospect for a parent and so they, quite rightly, call for an ambulance. Sometimes they say that the child has stopped breathing, after all that's why lips go blue.

When we arrive the child has normally made a full recovery from it's breath holding, but as we are not doctors we recommend that the child comes in to hospital with us.

What is less common, but a bit funnier is when you have a drunk who has seen his friend 'die' and managed to 'save' him with a bit of CPR. Or as we like to call it 'waking him up by pushing on his chest'. A tip – if he's pink and trying to push you off he's probably not dead**.

*After an accident with a threshing machine.

**Except when you are doing really good CPR on a dead person and they open their eyes and look at you – it's only happened twice with me and it freaked me out both times – especially as neither of them survived.

15 thoughts on “Baby Blue”

  1. I know this post was about kids, but…”**Except when you are doing really good CPR on a dead person and they open their eyes and look at you – it's only happened twice with me and it freaked me out both times – especially as neither of them survived.”

    Sure made me think twice about snide comments during CPR when it happened to me back in the 1980's. I was NEVER told that this could happen (although logically, it makes sense as their brain gets oxygen again, they could wake up). He didn't survive, either. Never could get a shockable rhythm back.

  2. when it comes to children (or grandchildren) with blue lips, i remember what my mother told me: “if they're holding their breath & their lips turn blue, they'll start breathing again once they pass out.” and they do.

  3. I went to a one month old Cardiac arrest last night. He vomited ,gagged and scared the shit out of his young parents. The parents were Polish , but the same thing happens with English and other young parents who move miles away from home and can't get advice or help from Mum or granny. Most are not thick, just scared.( Am I getting soft or what !!)

  4. Hi Tom, I am a technician/ambulance practitioner (call it what you will – the name keeps changing!) in Bristol and I am very close friends with the crew that went to this baby. The baby was quite definately not breathing and stopped breathing again 4 times on the way into hospital.A fantastic effort from all involved (crew, call taker, Mother, cousin who placed the call, hospital staff) has led to an amazing and full recovery. My congratulations go out to them all.

  5. Great stuff about the result, especially after reading the last comment.The first article I read about this described the mother receiving CPR insructions “from paramedics”. I know the public generally assume anyone driving an ambulance must be a paramedic, but it's a bit much to get them mixed up with the call-takers!

    (although there have been plenty of people while I've taken 999 calls who've screamed at me to “stop asking questions, get in your f**king ambulance and get here now!”)

    Just my OCD pendantry breaking loose, but it's little things like this that remind me the the public often understand very little about how the service works. It's great to have success stories like this that highlight some of the good work the service does, but also to educate people about what we really do.

    Not sure how I got on to such a ramble, sorry about that.

    Best wishes to Mum & Baby!

  6. I was quite young when I first saw CPR being performed on an old lady who had a heart attack at church. A Nurse did CPR for a few minutes and the lady was concious by the time the ambulance arrived!! (1980's – before AEDs etc on ambulances) It was years later after fellow St John colleagues failed to save someone that I realised that CPR doesn't always work so impresively!Babies, spent many a time with young nephew tipped up with back blows because eyes bigger than mouth!! The first time it happened it was scarey but I just automatically did the first aid without thinking about it.

  7. Hi, apologies for hi-jacking the comment space on this, but the side links to find your contact details just redirect to the blog's front page. Is there any way in which I can contact you personally? Cheers.

  8. Indeed, well done all round!Glad to see everything has turned out for the best – whenever I've been to a baby not breathing that is genuine, there has been nothing that we could do for it.

  9. Ah – I see what's going on (and probably why the image at the top of the page has disappeared) – I'll correct it when I wake up tomorrow/later today.Thanks everyone for drawing it to my attention – it's all that PR lot's fault…

  10. My nephew once held his breath when throwing a tantrum. The boy picked the wrong mummy to try that on – she's a nurse at the Sick Kids in Edinburgh. She just stepped over him and waited for him to pass out. He never tried it again at home, but when he did the same at Granny's, she panicked and called 999. The guys were very understanding but she was mortified!

  11. In my years as a paed emergency nurse I had 2 extremes. Concerned family with 14 months old “not breathing”. He looked fine, when asked why they thought he wasn't breathing replied cos they couldn't see him doning so. After removal of coat + 2-3 jumpers they agreed he was breathing fine. The other was a mother who ran into A&E screaming my babys not breathing, approx 6 weeks old. It was one of those heart stopping “OH SHIT” momments as I looked & realised she was right. Good news it was having apnoeas due to spesis & made a full recovery.

  12. I'm good friends with the brother of the call taker. So we're proud of her and happy for the success in the southern hemisphere too. It's heartening to hear positive stories about the call centre people for a change. So often they get slammed for being stupid when they're hamstrung by the brass' procedures and really can't do anything else if they want to keep their job.

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