Father of toddler who stopped breathing urges parents to learn CPR

Mark and Shannon Cummins

A father whose two-year-old daughter stopped breathing has praised a “brilliant” emergency phone line operator who helped save her life by guiding him through CPR.

Mark Cummins, 37, from Alton in Hampshire, urged all parents to learn first aid as it could mean “the difference between life or death”.

He said his daughter Shannon collapsed on Saturday morning because her immune system has been weakened by lockdowns.

“I thought she was playing so I walked over to her and I looked into her eyes and there was nothing there, nobody was home.

“I realised that she wasn’t breathing and she was blue.”

That's when Mr Cummins called 999 and spoke to an operator who talked him through how to perform chest compressions with rescue breaths.

“I was in such a panic and nothing was going into my brain, but eventually he calmed me down and said ‘look, this is what you need to do’.”

The toddler started breathing again though she remained unconscious until an ambulance crew arrived. Paramedics rushed her to Basingstoke Hospital, where she was still recovering on Sunday.

Shannon Cummins has a lockdown-weakened immune system and cannot fight off viruses, according to her father Credit: Mark Cummins/PA

Mr Cummins immediately signed up for a free council-run first aid course and encouraged others to do the same.

He said: “If you can take five or six hours out of your time, you can save a child’s life or someone else’s life.

“I think every parent should learn some form of CPR.

“I didn’t know anything about it and I had to learn yesterday over the phone.

“If I already knew that information, I could have kick-started (CPR) before I’d even picked up the phone.”

Finding his mobile and dialling 999 wasted one minute that could have meant “the difference between life or death”, he said.

Shannon with her siblings Connor, 14, Ivymai, seven, and baby Rhys Credit: Mark Cummins/PA

Mr Cummins has asked South Central Ambulance Service to pass on his thanks to the operator.

“I don’t think the people on the end of the phones are praised enough,” he said.

South Central Ambulance advice on giving CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation)

The little girl has her mother by her side in hospital where she is undergoing tests.

Her father said: “They think that because she was born just before lockdown, she’s had no physical contact with anybody, so she’s got a really poor immune system.”

Blood tests revealed she had two viruses “that should never have brought her down”, according to Mr Cummins.

During the pandemic, Shannon’s only contact was with Mr Cummins, who was at home on furlough from his job as a stock replenisher at Sainsbury’s, and his wife Emma, 32, who was on maternity leave.

The parents will have to shield her from even a “little tickly cough or cold” for fear that any infection will trigger more convulsions, he said.

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