“You saved my baby’s life” are five words RCMP Cst. Denise Laforest will likely remember forever. The Vancouver Island police officer is being credited for saving a 17-month-old from choking to death north of Campbell River.
On Aug. 30th at around 12:30 pm, off-duty Laforest was cruising remote Highway 19 between Sayward and Woss. She had her two young kids in the car and they were driving from Nanaimo to meet with Owen, Laforest’s RCMP officer husband who had recently transferred to the Alert Bay detachment.
With her eyes on the road, at one point her attention was diverted to a vehicle that had pulled quickly to the side. According to Laforest, a man who appeared to be in a state of panic jumped out holding a limp infant.
She then made a U-turn and drove back to where the man and infant were. “I told him I know first aid and that I can help,” Laforest explains. “At that point, he basically threw the baby at me and said she’s choking and can’t breathe.”
And that’s when Laforest’s first aid training kicked in. She told the father, Sam, to dial 911 as she conducted a quick assessment. However, there was no cell coverage in the area and Sam was unable to call for help.
Laforest checked for any obvious injuries or blockages on infant Hanna and managed to find a very weak pulse. She then started doing back blows in hopes of dislodging whatever she was choking on.
“To her horror, the child did not respond and the pulse could no longer be found. She realized at this point that the child may die,” the Nanaimo RCMP says.
With this in mind, Laforest immediately started doing CPR, going back and forth between giving mouth-to-mouth resuscitations and finger compressions on her chest.
She did this for what seemed like several minutes until Hanna started making a small wheezing sound. Shortly after, debris dislodged from her mouth and she began to cry.
“Collectively, it was the most beautiful sound we had ever heard,” notes Laforest.
And what followed were many heartfelt hugs and tears from both Sam and Hanna’s mom, Amanda.
According to the RCMP, after the incident, Hanna’s family drove into Woss and found a first aid clinic to have her assessed. “They then carried on to Campbell River where Hanna was admitted to hospital. She remained there until 7:30 pm that night until such time that she was discharged with a clean bill of health.”
Sam and Amanda were from Prince Rupert, visiting Vancouver Island to see family. When they’re back home, they told Laforest the first thing they plan to do is enroll in an emergency first aid course.
In this case, first aid is something that proved vital. For Laforest, she’s just fortunate to have recently completed an emergency first aid refresher. “If it wasn’t for that, my training may not have kicked in and we could have been looking at a very different outcome,” she adds.