The Day My Toddler Lost Consciousness

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Practice Mannequins

“Is he breathing?”

This is a question I never, ever, want to ask about my child but found myself doing so just recently to my husband.

“Check if he’s breathing!” Please say he’s breathing. Please. Please.

Scotch finally replied that our son was breathing. Thank you Powers-That-Be!

I tried to turn my attention back to the task of calling our son’s hospital. Sliding my finger up and down my iPhone, I tried to remember if I had filed it under “P” for Pediatriacs, “A” for American Hospital, or “D” for “Doctor”? Why didn’t I better organize my contacts! Should I be dialing 911? Wait, it’s 999 in Dubai…

It was about 7:30am and a minute ago, Wee Scotch and I had been sitting on the floor of our apartment. Not standing, jumping, somersaulting, not spinning. Just sitting and playing and tickling each other when he bumped the side of his forehead onto the tiled floor. Oh no, here it comes, the crying.

I pulled him into a bear hug, he let out one or two screams and suddenly slipped out of my arms.

I thought it was some kind of sly toddler maneuver to escape from Mama’s overbearing embraces but then I realized he was unresponsive and yelled out to Scotch who was sitting on the couch by us, “Honey! He’s gone limp!”

Scotch quickly scooped our son up, checked that he was breathing, and continued to call his name while holding him tight and pacing up and down the apartment.

He lost consciousness for about one minute. The longest minute of our lives, yet. As he regained consciousness, the sound of his crying never sounded more welcoming.

Wee Scotch riding pony
Wee Scotch riding a pony

Scotch later told me that he will forever have nightmares of holding his son, limp arms and legs, calling his name, willing him to wake-up. It’s a scenario no parent wants to be in.

Our doctor ordered a brain CT just to make sure their wasn’t any internal injuries or bleeding.

Wee Scotch was a very brave boy throughout the doctor’s visit, sitting quite still for all the poking and prodding. He only cried and screamed a little, “Mama! Mama!” when he was strapped down to the CT table. But he was easily distracted by the scan operator consoling him through the speakers and by the flashing lights from the scanner.

The results were instantaneous and as the doctor showed me the 3D scan of my son’s skull and the dark matter in his brain, he said that everything looked fine and discharged us with only a list of things to observe for in the next 24 hours.

As we drove home from the hospital, Wee Scotch was finally allowed to sleep and I couldn’t help looking over at him, again and again, to make sure he was breathing.

Suddenly, a wave of emotion swept over me and I felt all choked up at the thought of anything bad happening to my son. I didn’t feel prepared at all if something more serious were to happen. And what if we had out-of-town guests babysitting Wee Scotch ? Would they know what to do, who to call, or where to go for help in case of an emergency?

Back to Basics – Pediatric First Aid and CPR

As I was about to search for a Child CPR or First Aid Course to in Dubai, I saw a Facebook update from Family and Friends (a community center that’s only a 5 minute walk from my apartment) that they were organizing First Aid courses through Back to Basics and the next one was only a few days away. I quickly messaged them to sign up for the Pediatric Emergency Response Training.

Our trainer during the course was Steve, who did a fantastic job leading us through the course material which covered how to prepare our homes for an emergency and hands-on training in rescue breathing and CPR for infants and children. We covered important topics like how to respond to drowning and choking emergencies.

Emergency Pediatric Response

We also discussed some of the cultural considerations about emergency response in Dubai – things like how the greatest challenge for emergency responders is finding the locations which is highly hindered by the fact that Dubai has a confusing and sometimes non-existent residential street system so most directions are given using landmarks (right at the Spinneys, left at the garbage skip, behind the mosque…).

One of the first participants that I met was Lesley Cully who is the founder of the Buckle Up in the Back Dubai awareness campaign. Lesley set up the campaign in May 2010 after seeing too many children travelling without proper restraints in the back of cars. I had recently been in a car where a nearly 2-year old toddler unfastened her car seat restraint and Lesley was a big help in talking me through how to deal with the situation should it happen again.

Emergency Pediatric Response

Besides the hands-on training, some of the most important things that I took home from this course was to have an Important Documents Folder and an In Case of Emergency Card that can be laminated and used as a fridge magnet or given to our babysitters or out-of-town guests.

The Important Documents Folder would contain copies of pertinent medical records, copies of insurance cards, copies of passports/IDs, and also cash. This folder should be placed in an easily accessible place where guests/visitors can easily grab and take it with them to the hospital or ambulance.

Emergency Pediatric Response

Here is the format of the sample In Case of Emergency Card that Steve showed us. He mentioned that the template will soon be made available on the Back to Basics website.

Front of card:

In Case of Emergency

Back of card:

In Case of Emergency

After participating in this three-hour long course, I feel better prepared about how to handle emergencies and I hope to be able to take the Back to Basics follow-up course which is Pediatric First Aid.

These courses are not just targeted to parents but to home help as well. Back to Basics currently offers courses in English, Arabic, Tagalog, and are looking for a qualified instructor fluent in Sinhalese. They can also come to your home to run these courses.

I highly recommend taking an infant and child CPR and First Aid course for all parents as well as for home help because we never know when an emergency will arise. It’s important to be prepared and also for our peace of mind.


Back to Basics LogoBack to Basics – The first community pediatric first aid program to be accredited in the region and is targeted at parents and home help. For course details & dates, pricing and safety/injury prevention tips, please visit their website and also “Like” their Facebook page.


Family and Friends – Located on the 1st Floor of the Al Fattan House alongside JBR in Dubai Marina. For more information about their community programs for children and adults, please visit their website. You can also “Like” their Facebook page to be updated on upcoming courses and events.


Buckle Up in the Back – For more information about this very important safety campaign and how you can help, please visit their website, “Like” the Facebook page and follow the campaign on Twitter via @BuckleUpDXB.

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  1. So glad to hear that Wee Scotch is okay, that sounds like a nightmare situation, most people just freeze out of fear and shock, so this article and the course is one that most parents should do to avoid that instant reaction.

  2. Out of curiosity, did they tell you anything about legal implications of aiding strangers? Just that I hear contradictory info regarding the possibility of being put in jail here if someone dies after you help them.

    Another great article to google for is "Drowning Doesn't Look Like Drowning"

    1. Good question about the legal implications. I'll email Steve from Back to Basics and see if he has any input on that.

      And thanks for the article as well!

  3. I'm so glad Wee Scotch is okay! My mom and I were recently talking about renewing our First Aid and CPR certifications here thru the Red Cross. It's so worth the money and may take up one or two Saturdays but knowing that you have the knowledge to handle a situation that may come up is priceless.

  4. Oh Sandy, I can only begin to imagine how that felt!! I'm so glad that everything turned out ok. Owen fell out of the hospital bed when he was 2 days old (slipped out of our arms – who knew babies were so squirmy!). I remember running out of the room, screaming for the nurses. I don't think it's something we ever forget. Reminds you how powerful your unconditional love of your children really can be. Hugs to all of you!

  5. Thanks for the useful information. I've been meaning to take courses but have delayed it, you just reminded me to take the courses ASAP.

    I couldn't not imagine what you have felt when WeeScotch didn't respond the longest traumatic minute of your life. Very happy that he's ok.

  6. My three girls have smacked their heads on the tile (why is it always tile out here?) floors more than a few times. Normally it just calls for some ice and hugs. But one time, my youngest was with grandma and grandpa and our youngest smacked her head, stood up, then her eyes rolled back in her head and she fell down unconscious.

    At the time, however, we didn't know this. We just got a panicked phone call, and were told that our daughter had stopped breathing, with the fearful implication that she had stopped breathing for good.

    And while everything turned out okay, that fifteen minutes as I raced across the city couldn't have felt longer.