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Seven-year-old girl saves her mum’s life during severe asthma attack

29 Aug 2021 3 minute read
From left to right Paramedics Harriett Thomas and Will Jones, then Isla, Katherine, dog Roly, and call handler Madison Vickery

A seven-year-old girl has received a commendation for talking to emergency services as her mum had a severe asthma attack behind the wheel on a dual carriageway.

Katherine Holifield, her daughter Isla and their dog, Roly, were driving on the A449 in Monmouthshire when Katherine – who has brittle asthma – began struggling to breathe. She pulled into a layby and called 999.

As Katherine’s breathing worsened, Isla took over the call and calmly directed the ambulance service to her mum by telling the call handler to look out for a ‘red car’ with a kayak on the roof.

Katherine, of Cardiff, recalled: “We’d spent the day kayaking in Monmouth with friends. I felt a bit tight-chested when we got off the water but just put it down to the fact we’d been doing quite a bit of strenuous activity.

“We’d started to make the journey home but I wasn’t getting any better, I was getting worse. Recognising it was an asthma attack, I pulled into a layby and got my nebuliser out to try and help.”

Quick thinking

When Katherine’s condition deteriorated, quick-thinking Isla took over the call.

As it was difficult to identify where Katherine and Isla were, call handler Madison Vickery, from the Welsh Ambulances NHS Trust’s Clinical Contact Centre in Carmarthenshire, texted a what3words link to establish the pair’s exact location.

what3words is a free app-based service which works offline using GPS. This makes it ideal for use in areas with unreliable data connection, such as beaches, national parks and campsites.

It divides the world into a grid of 3 metre squares and gives each square a unique combination of three random words, a what3words address, assisting emergency and rescue services to locate people.

Road to recovery

Madison said, “Isla was so lovely and hugely helpful in answering the questions and passing on information. You could tell that she was worried about mum, so I was trying to chat to her about other things to keep her mind preoccupied.”

Newly-qualified paramedics Harriett Thomas and Will Jones came to Katherine’s aid, pulling into the layby behind her vehicle.

Katherine was taken to the Grange University Hospital in Cwmbran. Discharged that evening, she is now recovering at home.

This week, Katherine, Isla and Roly met call handler Madison in person to say thank you and were reunited with attending paramedics Will and Harriett.

The Trust’s Chief Executive Jason Killens, who presented Isla with a commendation, said: “Isla remained cool, calm and collected in the face of an extraordinary set of circumstances. Her actions that day helped us to find and triage Katherine in a time-critical emergency and probably saved her life.”

Over 85% of emergency services in the UK use what3words to help locate people in danger. 89% of emergency services have said what3words is an essential tool for the public to have on their phones, as nearly half (42%) of emergency call operators said that individuals struggle to describe the location of their emergency at least once per day.

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