Conor Dillon gives Caroline Hession a big thank you kiss after Caroline and fellow lifeguard Brian O’Toole saved his life at the Castlecourt Hotel recently.?Pic: Paul Mealey
Toddler drama triggers mum’s labour
Toddler with seconds to live saved by fast-acting hero, drama sparks premature birth
If it wasn’t for the quick actions of heroic lifeguard Caroline Hession, last week’s papers would have reported the tragic death of a toddler in Westport.
Little Conor Dillon from Islandeady was within a few short seconds of choking to death in the reception area of the C Club leisure centre at the Castlecourt Hotel, but the quick thinking and expertise of Caroline Hession means that this week Conor is a healthy two year old who is blissfully ignorant of how close he came to losing his life.
Conor got into difficulty when a miniature chocolate egg he was eating became trapped in his airway while he and his father, Matthew, were waiting in the reception area for Samantha, who was heavily pregnant, and Conor’s sister Aimee after a session in the pool.
“If it wasn’t for Caroline, Conor wouldn’t be here. It is as simple as that,” Conor’s mother Samantha told The Mayo News. “She saved his life and I want to send a huge thank you to Caroline and to the Castlecourt. She acted immediately. She was a good bit away but saw what happened and got over there quickly. In situations like that, the first moments are so vital and if people don’t react swiftly, it can easily be fatal. Before they knew it, Conor had gone blue and had stopped breathing.
“What amazed me is that the lifeguards would normally just have to work on people who might get into difficulty in the pool; they wouldn’t normally have to work on anyone who was choking, but Caroline knew what to do and was able to do it,” added Samantha.
A HAPPY FAMILY Caroline Hession (at rear) pictured with the Dillon family. Caroline’s quick actions saved Conor Dillon’s life recently and the drama sparked a premature birth of baby Eoghan. Pictured from left are: Conor, Matt, Aimee, Samantha and Eoghan Dillon.Pic: Paul Mealey
Drama triggers labour
As if that wasn’t enough drama in one week for the Dillon family, the episode appears to have triggered Samantha’s labour. The following morning, three weeks prematurely, Samantha gave birth to her and husband Matthew’s third child, baby Eoghan.
“I was in the changing rooms when most of what happened with Conor was taking place … Thank God I missed most of it. But it still was very stressful. Afterwards, while Conor was recovering, his body was freezing cold and in shock because your blood rushes to protect your major organs in incidents like that. We brought him to the doctor that day and he was okay again that evening.
“The incident looks like it certainly sparked the early birth. Eoghan was three weeks premature but, thankfully, he was healthy. It was some drama for one week, that’s for sure.”
Touch and go
It was only after the event that the hero of the story, Caroline Hession, fully appreciated how close they came to a tragedy at the Castlecourt.
“I was at the pool and saw that something was up in the reception area and ran over. Brian O’Toole (lifeguard) was working on him and then I took over. We were giving him chest thrusts and chest compressions – like you would if you were administering CPR. After I that I did more backslaps and the egg was dislodged eventually.
“I didn’t realise the seriousness of the situation at the time but, looking back, it was very scary. Brian told me that Conor’s face had gone blue and that he reckoned he only had a few short seconds to live. It can take as little as two minutes for someone to die from choking and I was very shaken afterwards because he was touch and go,” Caroline told The Mayo News.
Had there been a tragedy at the Castlecourt, there is no doubt that safety procedures and training among staff would have been examined. When a tragedy is averted due to the quick actions and knowledge of lifeguards, it is worth reflecting on how well prepared they are for such incidents.
“All the lifeguards here are Royal Lifesavers Society trained. That training incorporates drownings, but we do a lot more, including situations like this. We insist on going on courses once a month to refresh everything so that it will be fresh in our heads – and something like this shows how important that is,” added Caroline, Assistant Manager at the C Club.
“We do lifeguard courses here as well, and we teach kids the importance of live-saving basics. We’re hoping to do a course called ‘how to save a baby’s life’ which will teach parents how to deal with a situation where they find their child face down in water, or situations like this one, where a child is choking.”
The Dillon family are only too well aware of the importance of that.