Stroke of luck that saved a dying toddler’s life
Zoe Braaksma-Heit has never forgotten what the police did for her and only has to look at her three little children to be reminded every day.
Almost 20 years ago, Ms Braaksma-Heit, then two, stopped breathing and turned blue in her mother Anita Heit's arms in the Coffs Harbour suburb of Toormina.
In a stroke of extraordinary luck, Sergeant Don Stewart lived across the road from the young family and was enjoying a quiet day off in the garden when he heard Ms Heit's screams.
Running over and grabbing Ms Braaksma-Heit out of her mother's arms, Sergeant Stewart applied CPR to the baby and after an agonising wait she miraculously gasped back to life. She had suffered a febrile convulsion as her temperature went above 41.
Ms Braaksma-Heit, now 21, had an emotional reunion with Sergeant Stewart at the Coffs Harbour Jetty yesterday to thank him for his bravery and to introduce him to her children, Amelia-Rose, 5, Ellie-Mae, 2, and Rhylan, 1.
"I'm amazed at how brave it was, I'll be forever grateful because I wouldn't be here and my three children wouldn't be here if it wasn't for him," she said.
"I personally don't hate on police because of what Don did. I've always respected them - I find most people forget the good they do."
Ms Heit said Sergeant Stewart saved her daughter's life and police were not appreciated enough, especially as people complained about coronavirus rules. "He is a true hero … I'm so grateful he was there," she said.
Sergeant Stewart, a 40-year veteran of the force who retired last month, recalled the "terrible shrieks" he heard that day.
"In this job, you see so many incidents where there's just nothing you can do for people. In this one we actually won for a change."
Originally published as Stroke of luck that saved a dying toddler's life