Kiana's lifesaving CPR

About an hour into his work day in late January, Daniel received a call no parent wants to receive. His 15-month-old daughter had been involved in an accident.  

Kiana, who had been inside with her mother, Lavinia, had managed to crawl through the doggy door of the house and find her way into the backyard pool while her mum was on the phone.  

A ripple in the water quickly turned into the horrific realisation that Kiana was at the bottom. 

Thankfully, Kiana’s grandmother, an aged care worker trained in CPR and first aid, was quick to respond to the situation.   

“Without thinking, she jumped into the pool and got her out. She had the presence of mind to call triple zero (000) and was able to provide Lavinia with really clear instructions on following the steps of CPR to get any water up”, Daniel said.  

Daniel says the pool gate, which has an auto close function, didn’t latch shut properly, presenting a dangerous opportunity for the inquisitive toddler.  

“I remember driving home and thinking, “Is this it?” It was the most horrible feeling in the world,” Daniel said.  

When he arrived home, Daniel distinctly remembers hearing the sound of Kiana crying.   

“You don’t normally like hearing children cry, but in that instance, it was such a relief because it meant that she was with us.”  

Kiana was taken to The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, where she remained overnight for observation under the care of the Children’s Short Stay Unit.  

Kiana is among the 56 children who have already presented to The Children’s Hospital at Westmead and Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick following a drowning incident this year. In 2021 there were a total of 49 presentations to both hospitals.  

Drowning is one of the leading causes of death and injury in children aged zero to five years in Australia; it is also one of the most preventable. Of the 49 drowning incidents seen by both hospitals in our Network in 2021, like Kiana, 60 percent of children were under the age of five. 

With the weather now warming up, experts from our Network are urging parents to remain vigilant this summer.  

“While even one drowning is too many, the increased incidence of child drownings to date this year is concerning”, Dr SV Soundappan, Trauma Surgeon at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, said.  

“Children are naturally curious around water; however, they don’t understand the dangers it can pose”, Dr Soundappan said. 

Dr Susan Adams, Trauma Surgeon at Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick says supervision is the single most important thing parents can do to keep children safe around water.  

“A child can drown in just 20 seconds, in as little as five centimetres of water, and in absolute silence. Once a young child is in water, they are unable to get their head above the surface because it is proportionally heavier than their body, so supervision is crucial”, Dr Adams said.   

NSW Ambulance Inspector Andrew McAlpine said that in the event of an accident, knowing CPR can be the difference between life and death.  

“The quick actions of bystanders and loved ones can help to save lives and reduce serious or long-term injuries before medical professionals arrive on the scene,” Inspector McAlpine said. 

“In a drowning incident, it is most often a family member who finds the child, so it is crucial every parent and carer knows the lifesaving skills of CPR and starts this as soon as possible until help arrives.”  

For Kiana, this is thought to have made an enormous difference in her recovery.   

“A quick response from my mum to spring to action and knowing the skills of CPR to be able to dislodge any water she had consumed helped a lot”, Daniel said.   

Kiana thankfully, hasn’t experienced any significant side effects since her accident, but Daniel says that it served as an important reminder that you can never be too careful when young children and pools are involved.  

“Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network did offer a CPR course, and that is something that we would advise every parent or carer to do, so that they know what to do in the event of an emergency.”  

“It’s something that you never want to have to use, like making a claim for insurance, but it’s good to know that someone can.

"In our case, if it was another 30 seconds, it could’ve been a whole different story. It’s really given me a whole new perspective on fatherhood.”   

Follow these four top water safety tips to keep children safe this summer:  

  1. Supervise: Designate a responsible adult as the ‘Water Watcher’ to supervise children. Closely watch at all times when they are in or around water, with no distractions.  
  2. Restrict access: Those with pools should ensure that pool fencing barriers are compliant with regulations and are not left propped open. Make sure your pool fence and gate is working properly and there’s nothing close by that children can climb on. Empty baths, buckets, inflatable pools and other sources of water after use.  

  3. Teach water awareness: Familiarise children with water and teach them to swim, but don’t rely on these skills to keep them safe. It’s also important for adults to learn to swim.  

  4. Learn how to resuscitate: Learn resuscitation (CPR) in case of an emergency. Remember any attempt is better than no attempt. ‘CPR Training for Parents’ is a free online program developed in partnership with clinicians from our Network to teach the steps involved in Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) for a baby (aged less than 12 months) or a child (aged over one year).  

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