NAT 191024 Aoife and Orla-1572073880541
Aoife and Orla Image Credit:

Dubai: A Dubai mum who rescued her daughter from drowning by performing life-saving CPR is now on a one-woman mission to prevent more tragedies.

Orla Carbery, 45, was in a private pool in the emirate looking after six children with one other mum in June 2016 when she noticed that her then four-year-old daughter Aoife was missing.

Unbeknown to Orla, who was holding her youngest of three children Conor, Aoife had taken a leaf from the side of the pool and had swum down to watch it get sucked into an underwater vacuum.

The pump was uncovered however and sucked the girl’s arm into the exposed pipe up until her elbow.

For over two minutes the two mums first struggled to find Aoife, thinking that she had gone back inside the house, and then struggled to pull her free once they realised that she was lying motionless at the foot of the pool.

When they eventually did bring her up to the surface Aoife was blue and unresponsive.

Orla, who is an occupational therapist, originally from Ireland, realised Aoife had stopped breathing and couldn’t find a pulse, so she quickly began CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) or chest compressions between breathing air into her daughter’s lungs, in order to revive her.

“I was pumping on her chest for what seemed like an eternity and screaming at God to give her back to me. After what was probably about 40 seconds to a minute of CPR, she choked, took a breath, then copious amounts of water came up,” said Orla, who is still traumatised by the events of that day.

Although it was three years ago now, constant news reports of child drownings locally set Orla back into that horrifying scene. That twinned with a recent health scare herself, has made her realise that she must now fulfil her calling to spread awareness among other parents.

“My big thing is education,” Orla added. “Spreading water safety, drowning prevention and the importance of CPR as a life skill.

“It didn’t happen because she couldn’t swim and it didn’t happen because I wasn’t looking after her, because I was there in the pool beside her, and it still happened - so it could happen to anyone.

“If I hadn’t had experience of CPR from my work though, Aoife wouldn’t be here, because the ambulance took about 20 minutes to arrive. Secondary complications associated with near drowning also meant we could have lost her again,” she added of her insistance to get her daughter hospitalised afterwards, where she spent three days seriously ill in intensive care, despite ambulance staff’s initial reluctance to admit Aoife because she looked fine.

“I’m a firm believer that Aoife was brought back to me to do very special things and I know undoubtedly that through my raising awarness, Aoife will save lives,” Orla added.

Now a licenced CPR trainer, Orla has done a few talks in schools to children and parents to spread water safety awareness, but she now wants to partner with sponsors and organisations to take her campaign to the next level. One of those she has already partnered with is Dubai’s Hamilton Aquatics swimming academy and now she aims to get research and statistics to identify high risk groups to target with her campaign.

“I have huge plans and the background and experience to do it,” she said. “I have to turn this negative into a positive, I just need people to support me.

“No-one else is doing anything like this and this region is behind the times when it comes to drowning prevention and water safety education.

“I keep hearing of other child and adult drowning deaths and can’t bear to think what those parents and relatives must be going through. I know what it’s like to lose my daughter for seconds [what more must they be feeling?]. The reality is though that these drownings can be easily prevented in most cases.”