Real Life

Dad’s brave breath of life

How a Timaru man saved his baby during her bathroom birth.

It’s no wonder that baby Lucia loves cuddles with her dad – she owes her life to him. Scott Howey not only delivered his daughter in a dramatic one-hour birth, but he also had to perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation when she failed to take her first breath.

Now, little Lucia loves nothing more than snuggling on her dad’s chest, oblivious to the terror her parents felt when she arrived with her umbilical cord wrapped around her neck. Her mum Amy’s original plan was to have a hospital birth in Timaru, but there wasn’t even time for her and Scott – who also have a four-year-old son, James – to make it to the car after she woke with contractions early in the morning.

She went to the toilet before leaving, which was when her waters broke and she suddenly felt a strong urge to push. “I looked down and the head had crowned and I yelled out to Scott,” she explains. Amy (33) was forced to kneel on the bathroom floor and within just 20 seconds Scott had caught his baby daughter in his hands.

But the drama wasn’t over yet, because they both realised the baby wasn’t breathing and had turned blue. Scott could see the umbilical cord wrapped tightly around her neck. “There wasn’t any noise. When James was born we heard a huge bellow – but there was just stone silence,” shudders Amy.

Scott had dialled 111 and was on the phone to the emergency services operator, who told him he had to perform CPR. Thankful he’d learned first aid during his training to become a fisherman at the age of 16; Scott (now 44) put his mouth over Lucia’s mouth and nose and began resuscitating her.

“I breathed into her body. I watched her chest rise and my breath come out. Then I felt this light breath come onto my cheek. I rubbed her with a towel, then there was gurgling from her nose and mouth. I knew that was the start of life,” he recalls.

“She was cold, so I knew I had to get her back to Amy’s warmth as soon as possible. Also her breath was still coming slowly. When I got her back to Amy, I heard a cry and then the ambulance staff started coming through the front door of the house.”

Only now, with Lucia now settled into the family, can the couple breathe a sigh of relief about the life and death drama. “Nothing can describe the first breath that came onto my cheek after giving her my breath,” Scott smiles.

“I’ve since learned sometimes a baby won’t make it because of the shock of arriving so quickly, let alone having the umbilical cord around their neck,” he says. Although Amy was filled with terror that her baby wouldn’t survive, she knew Scott wouldn’t let their baby daughter die.

“I had total faith in Scott. I panic easily, but Scott’s a natural problem solver. He always keeps his cool under fi re. I was relaxed knowing he was dealing with it. “The outcome of Lucia’s birth could have been totally dire had Scott not been there or acted as he did, because I couldn’t have managed on my own,” says Amy, who’s a trained nanny and also knows first aid. She also works as a part-time model and was once the body double for Xena on Xena: Warrior Princess.

Amy says she didn’t want to find out her baby’s gender until the birth. “It was a lovely surprise.” But it took a while to convince James (4) he had a little sister. “He said, ‘I’ve got a little brother,’ because he came into the room at some stage and saw the umbilical cord,” laughs Scott.

“I still feel so elated. I got my deck hand certificate, which was basic first aid and resuscitation if someone has a heart attack, but I wasn’t prepared for babies. “Lucia’s a miracle. If she’s unsettled, she calms down really quickly if I put her on my chest. She’s a little angel.”

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