Mother and son effort saves life of father

22 October 2020

Early one Sunday morning at home, 12-year-old Flynn Mercer was woken by a loud thump as his father Philip collapsed suddenly. When Philip didn't respond to his shouts, Flynn raced through the house yelling to alert his mum Kirsten, who ran to the bedroom to find Philip face down on the floor. He was suffering a cardiac arrest.

Philip was making a terrible groaning noise but was otherwise unresponsive. Kirsten asked Flynn to run for her phone while she kept trying to get Philip to respond. Flynn dashed back with the phone and stayed with his dad while Kirsten rang the emergency services.

“While I was on the phone, Philip stopped groaning which alerted me that maybe he had stopped breathing. I kept the phone on speaker mode, and Flynn and I tried to roll him over – which really wasn't easy as he was in a very tight space and very heavy. It was so difficult that I asked Flynn to run and get help from our neighbour as I didn't think I could roll Philip over on my own.” But with no answer from their neighbour, Kirsten had to muster every bit of strength she could to try and roll Philip over.

“I actually managed it and could now see that he was grey/blue and his eyes were open – no sign of life at all.” The ambulance on its way, Kirsten commenced CPR. Despite feeling unsure if it was having any effect she continued to perform CPR for almost 20 minutes until the paramedics arrived. “It seemed like forever ... but to be honest, I would have done it for an hour if I had to. To have a little boy next to me watching ... there was no way I was going to give up.”

“I had never given CPR in my life. It's very different to the mannequin you practice on! I felt extremely unqualified and that I was probably doing it completely wrong. But I kept going anyway. The paramedics said later that I must have done a good job or he wouldn't have survived. So I think the most important thing is not to think but to DO and that's all you can do. The worst thing to do is nothing.”

Kirsten says her son’s bravery and quick actions during the ordeal “definitely saved his dad’s life” because he saved them so much time. From the urgency in getting her to Philip, fetching her phone from the other end of the house, to running next door to the neighbour's and running to open the door for the paramedics, Kirsten says if it wasn’t for Flynn’s help she “wouldn't have been able to do even half of the CPR I did and I truly believe we would have had a very different outcome."

"If CPR is given within the first 2 minutes of cardiac arrest, the chances of survival double. Philip is proof of that. I was so proud of Flynn in just how quickly he responded when I needed him to. He was really, really scared – particularly when I rolled Philip over and was working on him; it was pretty clear his dad had passed. To be confronted by the dead body of someone you adore and still do everything he did so quickly without question, that really took bravery and trust in me and I am extremely proud of him for that.”

Philip, a keen surfer and windsurfer, was fit and healthy and had no history of heart conditions so the incident came as a complete shock to the family. “The doctors still have no idea why his heart just stopped and today he has an ICD implanted in case his heart ever decides to stop again,” said Kirsten.

Kirsten credits her regular first aid training for helping her know what to do. “Keeping calm and getting the job done was the key part of Philip’s survival. I was scared too, but I had to get the job done until the paramedics could take over. Without the skills I already had, I would probably have been a mess.”

“Since our incident, I enrolled Flynn in the Royal Life Saving WA Children’s First Aid course during the school holidays as I felt it was important for him not just to gain the skills but to even gain a little insight and healing after what happened with his Dad. Despite his prior real-life experience, he really enjoyed the course and I would encourage others to register for courses like this. Learning first aid is essential. It’s easy to learn and a simple way to possibly save a life.”

At our recent Royal Life Saving Bravery Awards Kirsten received a Gold Medallion and Flynn and Gold Star in recognition of their amazing efforts! If you know someone who has saved a life why not nominate them for a Royal Life Saving Bravery Award? You can find out more and complete the nomination form at the link below.

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