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Nursery staff who saved three-year-old who hit her head are honoured

PUBLISHED: 18:41 28 September 2018 | UPDATED: 18:56 28 September 2018

Barking Pre-School manager Shelley Symonds (l) is being presented with an award for her work to save the life of Annabel Brightwell (r) Picture: GREGG BROWN

Barking Pre-School manager Shelley Symonds (l) is being presented with an award for her work to save the life of Annabel Brightwell (r) Picture: GREGG BROWN

Two Suffolk women who fought to save a three-year-old girl’s life after she fell and hit her head have received top national life-saving honours.

Annabel Brightwell was saved by nursery staff after suffering a cardiac arrest Picture: GREGG BROWNAnnabel Brightwell was saved by nursery staff after suffering a cardiac arrest Picture: GREGG BROWN

Vanessa Hall, 24, from Stowmarket, and Shelley Symonds from Great Bricett, have each been awarded Royal Humane Society Resuscitation Certificates for their battle to revive Annabel Brightwell from Willisham.

The society honours those who show bravery in the saving of human life.

Annabel collapsed while she was dancing at Barking Pre-school on Friday, February 9 due to a pre-existing heart condition unknown to her parents.

Vanessa and Shelley rushed to her aid and realised she was not breathing.

Staff at Barking Pre-School staff with Annabel and her parents William and Rebecca  Picture: GREGG BROWNStaff at Barking Pre-School staff with Annabel and her parents William and Rebecca Picture: GREGG BROWN

They began administering CPR and continued with it for 20mins, until paramedics arrived to take charge.

An air ambulance then arrived to fly Annabel to hospital, where she suffered further arrests as she was being cared for.

She was accompanied in the air ambulance by Ms Symonds after attempts to contact her parents failed.

Thanks to the swift action of the pair, who were backed up by others at the centre, Annabel was brought back from the brink of death and has now returned home.

Pre-school manager Ms Symonds said a few months after the event: “Initially we thought we were dealing with a head injury and that Annabel had knocked herself unconscious while dancing.

“I still think it was the paramedics and the consultants at the hospital that saved her life,” she said. “I gave her a fighting chance but that hasn’t really sunk in.

“You do the first-aid training and go on the courses but never think you’re going to have to use it on a three-year-old child.

“It’s priceless to see her now walking through that door again. I honestly felt on the day that we wouldn’t see her pull through.

“It’s totally amazing to see such a strong little girl. She’s a little walking miracle.”

Annabel’s mum Rebecca said: “We cannot put into words our heartfelt gratitude to Shelley, Ness and the rest of the pre-school staff. They were exceptional.”

“The sheer courage it took to perform CPR while managing the whole situation in a calm and professional manner.

“Shelley saved our daughter’s life and we’re eternally grateful to her.”

In addition to the awards all who were involved in the incident have won the personal praise of Andrew Chapman, secretary of the Royal Humane Society.

As he announced the awards at the Society’s London headquarters he said: “This was a horrific incident when this little girl effectively died after falling and hitting her head.

“Thankfully staff there were first aid trained, remained calm and did everything right. In other circumstances the little Annabel might no longer have been with us but thankfully she survived the ordeal and is now back home with her parents.

“All concerned here did an amazingly good job and Shelley and Vanessa richly deserve the awards that have been made to them.

“At the same time this is yet another incident which emphasises the value of as many people as possible learning CPR techniques. Probably all who learn them hope they will never be called on to use them, but as this incident shows they can, as they did here, make all the difference between life and death.”

No date has yet been fixed for presentation of the awards.

The roots of the Royal Humane Society stretch back more than two centuries. The Queen is its patron and its president is Princess Alexandra. It is the premier national body for honouring bravery in the saving of human life.

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