A young mum saved her baby daughter’s life by giving her CPR when the toddler’s heart stopped beating while she ate dinner at her grandparents’ home.
Rhea Webb, 22, was terrified when her 16-month-old daughter Clara stopped eating and turned blue in the middle of her pasta bake dinner.
They initially thought she was choking – but then realised her heart had stopped and she wasn’t breathing.
Quick-thinking Rhea performed rescue breaths and chest compressions on the lifeless toddler for six minutes until she came round.
Two months on, Clara is home with her family and medics have told her brave mum that she saved her life.
Carer Rhea, from Worthing, West Sussex, said: “She stopped breathing and turned completely blue with black spots appearing across her body where she was completely deprived of oxygen.
“I was frantically running up and down my mum’s hallway with Clara over my arm, completely lifeless. I thought she’d gone.
“I performed CPR, cycling rescue breaths and chest compressions, and I managed to bring her back just as the paramedics arrived.
“I had basic life support training when she was discharged from hospital, but I never once thought I’d have to use that.
“I was really panicking at first, but then something in my brain clicked and I knew I just had to do it. If I hadn’t done it, who knows where we would be today.”
Doctors had warned Rhea and Clara’s dad Laurence Knowles, 25, during pregnancy that she had a large hole in her heart as well as only one kidney and scoliosis.
The expectant parents were told the abnormalities were often part of a collection of birth defects called VACTERL syndrome.
Rhea was rushed in for an emergency caesarean after reduced fetal movement and little Clara was born a month early, weighing 5lb 1oz, in April, 2019.
She was suffering from every birth defect within the VACTERL association, affecting her spine, stomach, heart and lungs.
At just one day old, Clara underwent surgery to fix three abnormalities, including attaching her small intestine to her stomach.
She was fed via a tube that went directly into her stomach for the first year of her life and had only just switched to consuming food orally when disaster struck in July, 2020.
Rhea recalls: “It was a normal day. We were sitting down to dinner at my parent’s house and she was eating really nicely – she was doing so well.
“I noticed straight away that something wasn’t right. She wasn’t breathing and my first thought was that she was choking.
“I scooped her up, started doing some back slaps and some stimulation on her chest with my fingers.
“I kept doing that for around 40 seconds and then it became quite clear that she wasn’t clearing anything that could be stuck in her throat.”
Clara was suffering from a cardiac and respiratory arrest and was unable to breathe.
Rhea added: “I laid her on her back in my mum’s living room and looked for signs of life – there was nothing. She wasn’t breathing.
“I did an initial five rescue breaths, where I was breathing for her and I was checking for a pulse, but I couldn’t feel anything.
“I started with the chest compressions and rescue breaths and kept cycling that whilst my dad phoned for an ambulance.
“The paramedics were there so quickly, but by the time they reached us, I’d managed to get her to making a grunting noise.”
Clara suffered a chronic seizure in the ambulance on the way to hospital, and was transferred to University Hospital Southampton’s ICU later that night
She was ventilated for four days before undergoing surgery to help her airways.
Now, two months on, Clara is safely back home and being doted upon by her proud mum and her protective older sister, Isabella, four.
Rhea said: “I’ve been told many, many times, by different medical professionals, that she is so lucky that I was able to bring her back.
“They said that me jumping in so quickly not only saved her life, but also saved her lifestyle as well, as she could have suffered from severe brain injuries from being deprived of oxygen so long.
“I was worried afterwards that I may have hurt her by doing the chest compressions, but the paramedics said I’d done a very good job of it.
“She’s still not out of the woods yet. We’re going to have a long battle with everything that’s going on, but as each day comes, she’s just getting stronger and stronger.
“The whole experience was so traumatic. It was almost like grief – it didn’t affect me straight away, it was the weeks after that it got to me.
“All these flashbacks and memories keep coming back and I don’t think that’s something as a parent that I’ll ever be able to strip from my memory.
“It’s always something that’s going to be there.
“Every time I look at her I’m still so grateful that she’s still here after everything she’s been through, the poor little mite!
“She’s the happiest child you’ll ever meet – she’s always smiling.”