Four-year-old twins have been hailed as heroes for helping to save their grandmother's life.
Sean and Emma O’Sullivan, from Clonakilty in West Cork, were presented with special bravery medals at their pre-school in the town today in recognition of their heroics in the face of a medical emergency.
Medics said if they hadn't raised the alarm when they did, and handled the emergency with cool, calm heads, their grandmother, Ruth Clarke, was at risk of suffering permanent brain damage and could have died.
“At the time, we didn’t really appreciate the enormity of what had happened but as every day passes, we now realise just how lucky we are, and how great the twins were. They are our brave little heroes. The gods were looking after us,” their proud mum, May, said.
The drama unfolded at the twins' home last Monday week where they were being cared for by granny Ruth as their parents, May and Brian O'Sullivan, were enjoying a short break in Tralee.
When Sean, who woke at around 6am, couldn’t wake Ruth, he knew immediately that something was wrong.
He found her unlocked mobile phone in the bedroom, scrolled through the most recently dialled numbers and started pressing buttons.
He got through to Ruth's husband, Stephen, who was at home nearby, but hung up after a few seconds. It was enough for Stephen to know something was wrong too.
He jumped in his car and raced to the twins’ home where Sean had now managed to phone his mother, May.
She said: “He’s never used a mobile phone before and I don’t know what caused him to pick up the phone but he just knew something was wrong.
He kept screaming 'I can't wake nanny, I can't wake nanny'.
“We were in a state in Tralee and couldn’t think straight. Brian was packing our bags as I was listening to all this unfolding on the phone.
“All I could think was that there were two helpless children in the house and that my mother had died. It was very frightening.”
Ruth, 69, had suffered an apparent seizure overnight and fell unconscious in bed.
As Sean continued shouting down the phone to his mother, he began sticking crisps in his granny’s eyes and her mouth in a bid to rouse her. Emma helped by clearing from crisps from her face.
May could hear the entire drama being played out over the phone. Within 10-minutes, Stephen arrived at the house but the front door was locked.
Sean dropped the phone, went downstairs, pushed a bike against the door, and managed to unlock its double-locking system to allow his grandfather in.
As May and Brian were leaving Tralee, they could still hear the panic in the room through the phone, and knew that paramedics were on the way.
“I could hear the paramedics coming in to the room, and could hear what was being said,” May said.
“It was about 30-minutes before someone saw the phone on the floor and realised I was still on the line, and spoke to me about what was going on. It was the longest two-hour drive home,” May said.
Ruth was taken to Cork University Hospital where she remained in intensive care for two days.
She regained consciousness two days later and remembers little of the drama.
“She’s fine now, a bit emotional, but otherwise fine. Sean doesn’t think he didn’t anything special. Emma is affected a bit more by it but they are all fine now,” May said.
The manager of their Naionra, Naíscoil Chloch na gCoillte, Fidelma Ní hUallacháin, praised the twins for the heroics.
“It is 100% certain that Seán saved Ruth’s life. He is a worthy hero. Emma helped save her nanny too by cleaning the crisps from her nanny’s eyes,” she said.
Children this age are often not recognised for their capabilities and most certainly should be empowered with the knowledge to help towards their own safety.
The pre-school children have been discussing Seán’s bravery and have reenacted various scenarios to help them problem-solve and to react in unexpected events. They have also learned how to dial 999, and what to say in the event of an emergency.