When Olly Daglish collected his 3-year old daughter, Eliza, from nursery school one afternoon in September, he had no reason to suspect anything was wrong.
Just a short time later, however, he realised that Eliza seemed particularly tired and under the weather. By late afternoon, not having perked up at all, little Eliza seemed ready for bed and, surprisingly, even fell asleep as her dad carried her up the stairs.
Tucking her in and still concerned, Olly watched for a few moments. Normally, after watching her fall asleep he would have left the room but instinct made him stay. He saw, to his horror, her eyes open and roll to the back of her head, it was clear that she was not just sleepy but unable to focus on anything. Grabbing her back to him and realising that Eliza had become completely floppy, he ran back downstairs and dialled 999.
Olly remained on the phone for 15 minutes whilst the emergency call taker, Ruth Hayman, kept him calm and advised what to do. “I was so frightened but the lady on the phone was brilliant,” said Olly after the event. “I just switched into a different mode and I did what she said. Eliza was still fitting, her breathing was sporadic, her lips had turned blue and she was foaming at the mouth. I put her in the recovery position and kept her airways clear but if I hadn’t had someone telling me to keep calm, I think I’d have lost the plot completely.”
The first responder to arrive at the family home in Tintagel was a land crew paramedic, Steve Llewellyn-Ford, who administered oxygen to the little girl. Shortly after, the Devon Air Ambulance helicopter landed in a nearby field and paramedics Mark Hawley and Chris Saunders ran to help. Whilst many children suffer febrile convulsions and all are worrying, Eliza’s seizure was far from normal and in the end lasted over 45 minutes.
As the paramedics continued to look after Eliza, Olly tried in vain to contact his wife, Anna, who was out with their 7-year old daughter Georgi, and he realised that he may have to accompany Eliza in the aircraft without Anna even knowing what was happening. Finally, to his relief, Olly reached a friend who was with Anna, who calmly relayed the situation to her and Anna arrived home as the paramedics were giving Eliza medication prior to her transfer to Derriford Hospital in Plymouth. Watching the terrifying situation unfold before her eyes, Anna watched as Olly set off in the helicopter with their daughter.
Paramedics Mark and Chris monitored Eliza during the flight and Olly feared the worst as her condition deteriorated further still. Eliza’s condition was still causing concern when she reached hospital and the emergency team recommended that Anna should get there as soon as possible.
Both parents then spent a worrying few hours as Eliza was treated, first in AEU then in the High Dependency Unit, with significant worries about the risk of brain damage. Fortunately, just before midnight, Eliza came round and was very sick – but able to talk, much to everyone’s relief. She was completely exhausted and remained in hospital, undergoing a multitude of tests, for a further three days.
The whole family were delighted to be reunited when Eliza came home and Olly and Anna are relieved that things have settled back down. “A heart murmur was detected during the tests,” Anna explained. “But, whilst this is being followed up by cardiology, it is not thought to have been the cause of the seizure. There is no history of convulsions in the family at all so it was a terrifying ordeal for everyone but we’re so glad that Eliza was in such good hands. Steve, Mark & Chris and Rob the pilot were all so calm and reassuring. We know that without the amazing job they did, and Olly’s instinct to stay with Eliza when he did, things may have been very different.”