It was a typical Sunday at the CareFlight base, at the end of a hot weekend, when the 000 emergency call came – a six-year-old boy found unconscious at the bottom of a pool.
Within four minutes CareFlight was in the air, the pilot and aircrewman on the lookout for a safe landing near the scene while the doctor and paramedic prepared for what was ahead.
“With drownings every minute counts,” CareFlight’s Dr Colin Xavier said.
“The brain needs oxygen. For every minute without it, the risk of permanent damage increases.”
Little Lachlan Matthews was at the water’s edge. Thankfully, he was conscious after a family friend had performed potentially life-saving CPR. But he was cold and scared.
“We started giving Lachlan oxygen. I assessed his responses and checked for injuries. His tiny frame shivered so we dried him off, removed his wet clothes and warmed him up,” Dr Xavier said.
When Lachlan was stable, he was taken by road ambulance to the nearest hospital with his terrified mum Tracey close behind in a police car.
Lachlan would soon go home unharmed by the ordeal, the same beautiful boy who had arrived at the barbeque that afternoon.
But the experience was a stark reminder that drowning can happen to anyone. No one noticed as Lachlan slipped beneath the water.
It’s a chilling fact that most drownings are silent. When a child drowns there’s no splashing. No cries for help. It only takes a moment.
“We deal with the consequences of drownings regularly and when a child is involved it’s especially tough,” Dr Xavier said.
“When you see a little two-year-old who isn’t going to pull through, that’s hard. Really hard. The whole crew feel it.
“But you can’t afford to reflect on what’s happened until your work is done. In those hectic, initial moments, you’re 100 percent focused on saving the life in front of you.”
Quick thinking saves lives
Lachlan was pulled from the water by his best friend, Christian. It was only later, on the way to hospital, that CareFlight learned just how brave Christian had been.
He had rescued his friend from the bottom of the pool, holding Lachlan’s head above water while calling for help.
Knowing what to do in an emergency can mean the difference between life and death. The crew thanked Christian for his heroic efforts when he visited the CareFlight base. His courage and quick thinking meant his best mate Lachlan, was also there to share the experience.
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