An MSP has told how he saved his four-year-old daughter from choking to death on a coin, after “muscle memory” kicked in from a first aid course he took 25 years ago.
Alex Cole-Hamilton, the Liberal Democrat MSP for Edinburgh Western, was at home on Saturday night when his daughter Darcy blocked her windpipe after partially swallowing the Euro 50c piece.
After he intervened by turning her upside down and slapping her back until she was sick, she was rushed to hospital in an ambulance, where the coin was removed under general anaesthetic.
His daughter made a swift recovery and returned home yesterday [SUN], but Mr Cole-Hamilton said he wanted to use his experience to raise awareness about the importance of basic first aid.
“My wife and I were going out last night,” he told i. “My wife was already out because she was running the event we were going to.
“I was just handing over to the babysitter at about 7.15pm, waiting for a taxi, giving her the last couple of instructions.
“Darcy was in her jammies in the kitchen, watching kids stuff on YouTube on the computer.
“She just made this sort of strangled cry, and I dashed through and caught her saying the words ‘I’ve swallowed a coin’. Then she stopped breathing and changed colour.
“I’d done first aid when I was training to be a scuba diver 25 years ago, and understood a bit about choking through our NCT classes we did when we first had kids.
“Instinct took over and I just grabbed her and inverted her so her head was down by my feet, and I gave her five or six firm, open-handed back slaps until she was sick.
“She didn’t bring up the coin, but I could hear her gasp then after she’d been sick, so I realised I’d shifted the coin and stopped the interruption of her windpipe.
“I got her back to her feet and she was still retching a lot, but audibly breathing, so I dialled 999. They were here in seven or eight minutes and blue-lighted us to the Sick Kids [hospital].
“It was all really swift. They took an x-ray and got her into theatre probably an hour after we got to the hospital, gave her a general anaesthetic and got it out. We had her back within half an hour.”
Mr Cole-Hamilton, who is the party’s health spokesman at Holyrood, later posted dramatic pictures of Darcy’s x-ray and the coin she had swallowed on social media.
He said he was “shocked” at the number of parents who contacted saying they would not have known what to do, and is now keen to start an awareness campaign with health charities.
“I didn’t hesitate. The ambulance guys, the people on the phone said had I not done that [turned her upside down] things could’ve been very, very different,” he added.
“It was muscle memory. At the time it wasn’t scary at all, it was just a laser-beam focus, I knew ‘I have to do this, this is the most important thing right now’.
“I’m really keen to get the message out to other parents that you can do that, you can intervene, you can be that first responder.”
As for Darcy, the MSP said that by yesterday afternoon she was already “bothering her brothers like nothing’s happened” and “eating like a horse”.