Navy sailor saves four-day old baby

Published on LEUT Todd Fitzgerald (author)

Topic(s): Training, Values and Behaviours

Able Seaman Medic Carly Burke of HMAS Ararat, alongside HMAS Coonawarra, Darwin, NT. (photo: POIS Peter Thompson)
Able Seaman Medic Carly Burke of HMAS Ararat, alongside HMAS Coonawarra, Darwin, NT.

A Darwin-based sailor has been branded a hero after she saved the life of four-day old baby, injuring herself in the process.

Able Seaman Medic Carly Burke credited her training for teaching her the confidence and skills to resuscitate the choking infant.

“I felt calm, I knew what I needed to do, and I focused on that. I had a baby rapidly deteriorating, but because I have been doing a self-funded Paramedics degree as professional development and I had just finished a unit dealing with paediatrics, I felt confident I knew what was going on and I knew how to intervene,” she said.

The incident occurred while Able Seaman Burke was on holidays in her hometown of Mount Gambier in South Australia. She was jogging along a quiet road in the morning when a car swerved and braked suddenly in front of her.

“I saw a man and woman rush out of the front and grab a baby from the back seat. They were panicking, which set off my alarm bells,” Able Seaman Burke said.

She ran over, spraining her ankle as she stepped off the curb.

“I introduced myself and asked if I could help. The parents just handed over the baby and said, “She has choked on something”,” Able Seaman Burke said.

“The baby was blue around the lips and wasn't breathing. I told the father to call 000 and to tell them I was performing Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation on an infant.”

Able Seaman Burke fetched a blanket from the back seat and laid it on the bonnet of the car. She placed the baby on top and began resuscitation.

Thirty seconds later, the baby did something that Able Seaman Burke will never forget - she cried as she began to breathe again.

“It was most definitely the biggest feeling of relief but also accomplishment, not just because of a successful resuscitation, but also because when the infant started crying, you could see the relief on the parents’ faces, their fears and uncertainty vanished,” she said.

Paramedics arrived as Able Seaman Burke handed the baby back to her mother. She was taken to hospital and released the following day.

Able Seaman Burke is posted to patrol boat HMAS Ararat. Her Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander Khan Beaumont, said the family were very lucky they were so close to a trained Navy Medic when the crisis occurred.

“This was an exceptional act by an exceptional sailor,” Lieutenant Commander Beaumont said.

Able Seamen Burke said to be of assistance in situations like this were exactly why she joined the Navy as a Medic more than four years ago.

“I love this job because of the trust you earn and the people you meet, but also for the training we receive.

“The ability to learn and work with the best medical professionals, but also the ability to adapt and overcome, especially with the situations faced at sea, is something you don't get anywhere else,” she said.

Able Seamen Burke plans to finish her Paramedics degree and then apply for a Medic’s position on operations in Afghanistan.