01 Aug

A Father’s Nightmare

When I asked people on Twitter to send in stories that might interest my readers, Matt Tordoff was one of the first to respond. I read the story below and thought it illustrated such an important message that I mentioned on my blog just the other week: do a first aid course! You never know when your child’s life will depend on your knowledge.


Zack entered the world on the 11th of November 2009 and made his presence known from the very beginning. He is our third child, preceded my Max (now 9) and Amelia (now 4), but Zack from the offset behaved differently to the other two who had been relatively calm babies who slept well and didn’t cry a lot and were just generally happy babies. Zack was different; he was more restless, cried more and seemed more demanding and this was a bit of a surprise to us and, as many parents do, I guess we found ourselves a little frustrated at times with this very cute, but very demanding bundle who we loved dearly even though he disrupted every aspect of our daily lives!

Eventually, we managed to venture out a little more. It wasn’t long after Christmas that we decided to go on a day trip to Scarborough to take in a bit of sea air, enjoy a bracing walk along Marine drive and enjoy some fish and chips with my brother, his family and my parents who were in the country for a few weeks. It’s worth pointing out that Scarborough has always been a very special place for my wife and me. Before we were married, it was where we went for our first weekend away (the romance of which was only partly negated by the fact I couldn’t afford to pay the hotel at the time), and where we have enjoyed many subsequent days out on the beach with Zack’s older siblings. However, this particular day, all those wonderful memories were almost replaced by the worst of all experiences.

We were walking towards our favourite Fish and Chips restaurant and Liz was feeding Zack at the time while I was pushing Amelia in the pram and chatting with my parents. Suddenly, Liz cried out for me. The first thing I saw was her panic stricken face, more worried than I had ever seen her in the ten years I’d known her. Then I realised why. Zack was laying in her arms, mouth open, eyes closed, grey skinned and totally limp. I immediately thought the worst.

She handed him to me. Later she said to me that I’m the one who fixes things and she needed me to fix Zack. I don’t know why, but I’ve always been able to remain controlled, if not inwardly calm, in stressful situations, but this was pushing the limits. Thinking of the other two children (they didn’t need to see this), I told my parents to take Max and Amelia away as fast as possible and told Liz to ring an ambulance. Then I dropped to my knees and realised I was utterly lost…I didn’t know what to do. That was the most terrible emotion I have ever experienced. Someone I loved needed me more than I have ever been needed in my life and I simply did not know what to do.

For the first few moments (seconds, minutes…no idea) I simply knelt down on the pavement stroking his face. He didn’t respond. His chest stayed still and his skin remained devoid of any colour, other than grey, and his lips were starting to turn blue. There was a small drip of blood from his nose that looked too vivid against his skin.

By now a small crowd had gathered round, some of them spoke to me, but I had no idea what they were saying. An age seemed to pass, the ambulance wasn’t here yet and we both believed he was lost. I wanted to attempt the kiss of life, but I was terrified of hurting him and then I realised if I didn’t try something the consequence would be much worse. Cautiously, I raised him up, covered his mouth with mine and gently blew. I waited a moment and tried again. The second time after I lowered him and after a pause of a few seconds, Zack finally decided he had put his parents through enough anguish and took a shallow breath on his own.

A paramedic turned up and, shortly after, an ambulance. We were whisked off to Scarborough infirmary where we spent the night with Zack under close observation. It took a couple of days for his colour to return and he was tired and listless for a while, but I am happy to say that there was no long-term effects. Today he is a bright and fun-loving boy, full of giggles and mischief. As you can imagine, we also forgave him all his demanding nature as a baby.

The doctors at the hospital were not definitive in explaining the cause, but it’s possible that Zack managed to suffocate himself as very young babies lack the reflex action to detach themselves while feeding if their nasal airways become blocked and he had a bit of a sniffle at the time which could account for it.

I have absolutely no idea if the mouth-to-mouth had an effect or whether Zack just decided he wasn’t ready to go yet, but I’m glad I tried it. I have to say I read up an awful lot more on infant first aid after that but thankfully none of our three wonderful children have given us cause to use it since.


Thank you, Matt, for sharing and James and I are so glad that Zack is okay. I hope he’s causing lots of mischief for you!


  1. 01 Aug


    My heart was in my mouth – and I’m so glad all was well in the end. Great post Julia – perhaps some links to baby first aid courses would be good to add here too, if you/your readers have any info?

  2. 01 Aug

    Julia from ICAWatermelon

    Great idea, Marie! If you follow the link in my intro, I wrote a whole post about learning first aid. This is the company we used:


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