By Brendan Rees
A distressed father has told how a band of complete strangers helped save his “lifeless” baby after he waved down passing cars on the side of a busy highway in Cranbourne West.
Dean Richer recalled the moment he cradled his 14-month-old daughter Tahnee on the side of the Western Port Highway as the most “terrifying minutes of my life” after she suffered a febrile convulsion.
Dean said he was driving with Tahnee in the back seat of his car on Thursday 30 November. About 4.45pm, he suddenly heard her make a sound.
“I thought it may have been her sucking her thumb. I’ve just turned back and she was just slouched over in her baby seat, completely blue in the face, blue lips, completely lifeless.”
Panic stricken, Dean says he “freaked out” and pulled over the side of the road and started waving down cars in the vain hope someone would come to his aid.
“The first thing that came to my mind was I thought maybe she was choking or she had something stuck in her mouth.”
“I started tapping her on the back to try and clear her airways,“ he said, adding he was “getting no response whatsoever.”
“She wasn’t breathing and at that point I honestly thought I’d lost her.”
“I know my CPR but that just went out the window. Once I saw how blue and lifeless she was, it was completely on.”
Dean, of Cranbourne West, said within a couple of seconds a motorist pulled over about 100 metres in front of him.
“I started running towards him with the little one in my arms; it would’ve looked terrible because she was completely lifeless.”
“He’s just grabbed her out of my arms and before he could do anything another car pulled up.”
Dean said fortunately an off-duty nurse who he has named “Tahnee’s little guardian angel” stopped at the scene. He credits her for saving his daughter’s life.
“She started reading her heart rate with her hands; she was just able to extend this sense of calm over the situation.
“If she didn’t come along I don’t know what would have happened,” he said.
With the outdoor temperature soaring above 30 degrees, he said more motorists pulled over and helped put little Tahnee in the shade, with one person even taking off their shirt so she wasn’t lying on the grass.
“It was just incredible. I was blown away with the amount of support and care.”
Dean said he called triple zero but admits he was “struggling” and felt “pretty useless on the phone.”
Another person had to hold his phone on loudspeaker so the nurse could talk to the emergency operator.
He said the ambulance arrived soon after the nurse had gained a response from Tahnee, adding: “She was able to get Tahnee semi-normal by then.”
He said doctors at Dandenong Hospital kept an eye on Tahnee’s heart rate and temperature.
“She wasn’t alert and not really responding that well,” he recalled.
“They’ve given her some medication and since then it’s been great. We’ve still got to keep an eye on her temperature.”
Tahnee is now at home and her parents cannot thank their Good Samaritans enough.
“I just wanted to say thanks, especially to the nurse and every single person that was there. They may not have thought they did a lot but they played a significant role.”
But Dean added: “There’s another chapter to the story.”
“My wife was 38 weeks pregnant,” he said. “The next day she actually went into labour. We had our little Tahnee who I thought I’d lost and within 24 hours my wife was giving birth to our new daughter, Maya.
“It’s been pretty tough for me emotionally; I’ve gone on a bit of a rollercoaster.”