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I thought my daughter would choke on her curry. It was much worse

Ashleigh poses with her daughter Maisie, who has long brown hair

Ashleigh (L) with her daughter Maisie (R) (Image: Ashleigh Fox)

Sighing with exhaustion, I collapsed onto the sofa next to my daughter Maisie, 25, and my grandson as she placed plates of curry and rice on the table in front of us.

It was September 2021 and we had spent the whole day gardening. Now that Myles, four, was quietly watching a TV show, we were finally able to switch off and relax.

But as Maisie put chicken tikka masala in her mouth, she suddenly fell back on the sofa. Her eyes rolled back and she let out a strange snort.

Fear shot through me. She was choking?

“Maisie!” I screamed, turning around and grabbing her head, but she was limp and unresponsive.

I was terrified but knew I had to act quickly and call 999.

I had received first aid training in my job as a health worker and tried to clear her airway, but her mouth was tightly closed.

I lifted her to the floor while I spoke to the operator and then stammered, “It’s my daughter. I think she’s having a seizure.”

Maisie sits in the park with her son Myles and has a picnic

Maisie (L) with her son Myles (R) (Image: Ashleigh Fox)

I was told to take Maisie’s pulse. Nothing. She had that too stopped breathing.

“You need to do CPR,” the woman said.

“I can’t do this to my own daughter,” I shouted.

It’s one thing to give first aid to a plastic pacifier, but it’s another thing to do it to your child and know that his life depends on it.

But Maisie was lifeless, her eyes glassy. I was the only one who could save her.

I knelt next to her, lifted up her black hoodie and placed the heel of my hand on her chest, my other hand on top, intertwining my fingers.

I leaned over her and, with my arms outstretched, pushed down firmly with all my strength, performing two chest compressions every second.

Myles cried and asked, “Is my mom dying?” I wanted to comfort him, but Maisie was my priority.

Time flew by as I kept pressing on her breast.

Ashleigh and Maisie are both wearing sunglasses and smiling

Ashleigh (L) and her daughter Maisie (R) (Image: Ashleigh Fox)

If that When the paramedics arrived just five minutes later, I felt a huge sense of relief. I sent Myles to the bedroom and kept saying, “Mommy will be fine.”

Outside the door I heard a shrill beep, then the robotic voice of the defibrillator:

Analyzing the patient. Shocked.

My stomach clenched. You have revitalized my daughter’s heart. This was serious.

It took more than an hour for paramedics to stabilize Maisie.

They intubated her and inserted a breathing tube so a machine could breathe for her. They also put her in an induced coma to protect her brain and then sent her to Bristol Royal Infirmary.

I called my sister to take care of Myles and then drove to the hospital. Doctors had given Maisie a brain scan and ruled out a brain bleed. They said she was stable, but they had no idea if she had brain damage.

They also said the CPR I gave was strong and they hoped it got enough oxygen to her brain.

Maisie lies in a hospital bed sleeping with tubes and wires everywhere after her cardiac arrest

She was connected to a mess of cables (Picture: Ashleigh Fox)

Maisie sleeps in her hospital bed
Doctors explained that the cause was a leaky heart valve (Picture: Ashleigh Fox)

I later learned that brain tissue begins to die within three minutes of cardiac arrest due to lack of oxygen. Early cardiopulmonary resuscitation (commonly known as CPR) can more than double a person’s chances of survival and provide the time necessary for paramedics to arrive and provide care.

The next day I got to see Maisie.

She was pale, hooked up to a tangle of wires and covered in drops of medication. Her body was wrapped in vinyl with cool water pumped into it to keep her cool and protect her brain.

I asked the doctors what happened and they explained that Maisie had suffered cardiac arrest, a sudden loss of all heart activity due to an irregular heart rhythm.

It causes a person to stop breathing and become unconscious. Around 30,000 people in the UK suffer from it outside of hospital every year.

Maisie smiles with her son Myles, who laughs at the camera

Maisie (R) with her son Myles (L) (Image: Ashleigh Fox)

Myles sits on Maisie's lap and poses for the photo
Maisie (L) with her son Myles (R) (Image: Ashleigh Fox)

Doctors explained that the cause was a leaky heart valve that caused it Heart beats irregularly.

I was frustrated. Maisie had been diagnosed with the disease two years earlier, but doctors had dismissed the need for treatment. On the day of her collapse she complained of palpitations.

Four days after Maisie collapsed, doctors brought her back to consciousness.

“It’s Mom,” I said. “Squeeze my hand if you can hear me.”

When she did, relief flooded through me. Then she blinked and wiggled her toes. Once she was off the ventilator, she was able to talk.

She would be fine.

I explained to her what had happened and the doctor said I had given her CPR. She was confused, but a few days later, as I was helping her shower, she started crying and said, “Thank you for saving my life.”

I just hugged her tightly. I would do anything for her again in a heartbeat.

Maisie wakes up in a hospital bed with the tubes in her face

“Thank you for saving my life” (Picture: Ashleigh Fox)

Maisie in a wheelchair, smiling
(Image: Ashleigh Fox)

A few weeks later, doctors performed an ablation on Maisie by applying electrical current to her heart. They also fit, so to speak The defibrillator triggered an S-ICD that would shock her if her heart went out of rhythm.

She was understandably upset that a box the size of a cell phone was visible under her skin, but her heart condition meant she could have suffered another sudden cardiac arrest at any time.

After Maisie came home, we all needed time to deal with the trauma of what had happened.

We couldn’t believe an evening of takeout had taken such a dramatic turn. Unsurprisingly, I haven’t had a takeaway curry since.

We are both grateful that I learned CPR and would like to encourage everyone to learn it. The British Heart Foundation offers a free online course called ReViVr. All you need is 15 minutes, a pillow and your cell phone.

No one thinks they need to perform CPR on their friends or family, but in fact 80% of cardiac arrests occur at home.

I am proof that knowing CPR can mean the difference between life and death for the person you love.

As told to Catherine Jones.

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) is calling on everyone to do Red and raise funds to support research into heart and circulatory disease and learn the life-saving skill of cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Visit bhf.org.uk/heartmonth

Do you have a story you would like to share? Contact us by email at jess.austin@metro.co.uk.

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