In their own words: Mother and daughter describe their 111 experiences

Noreen Hegarty |

Karen Symons is a hard-working Mum who, between Christmas 2016 and New Year 2017, was literally struck down twice with unprecedented seizures.

At home with her on the night of her second shock seizure was 10 year-old daughter Libby.

Karen and Libby have agreed to participate in this St John 111 Child Caller campaign to help spread the life-saving tips they know are so important.

These are their stories in their words.


Dear Ambulance,
My name is Libby, I live in Whangarei and I like horse riding, reading, writing and video games.

I had to call the ambulance for my mum this is what happened.

I was sleeping and I heard my mum make a weird sound, I realised that's the sound she made before her previous seisors (sic), so I jumped out of bed grabbed my phone and ran into her room.

I timed her cessor (sic) and crawled to her phone. (it was in front of her and she was moving her arms)

I called the ambulance of her phone and explained what was happening.

I was scared and worried.

The 111 operator was nice and helpful, I then became a bit less scared as the ambulance arrived.. My cat seemed upset to, so I hugged her till the ambulance officers arrived.

The ambulance officers were nice and made me feel a bit less scared.

Karen Symons (Libby’s Mum) was surprised and delighted to be given a St John Medical Alarm by Home Health Field Force Leader Ben Baker. Ben installed the alarm and demonstrated how it works. It’s the only medical alarm in New Zealand monitored by St John and was given to Karen and Libby to reassure them they can connect with St John immediately if there are any future medical emergencies.

I don’t remember much from the morning my daughter called 111.  I remember opening my eyes to see St. John paramedics standing over me and my 10 year old daughter looking very worried behind them.

One of the main things I remember is the extreme kindness of the paramedics.  The care they showed both myself and my daughter was amazing.  They were kind, understanding, respectful, and re-assured my very worried daughter that I was okay. 

As only myself and my daughter were at home, they also took very good care of her while they were taking me to hospital.  My daughter has said that she was terrified because of my medical incident and the paramedics made her feel “a lot less scared”.  For that I am incredibly grateful and can’t thank them enough.

Our experience with my recent medical incidents has really highlighted the importance of children knowing to call 111 in an emergency and knowing what vital information to provide.  

Libby had witnessed the same medical incident the day before and had taken notice of the information provided to the 111 operator and paramedics by my 21 year old son (who had moved to Paihia that afternoon), and she stayed calm enough to remember what information to provide when she had to call 111. 

She was able to give St John the information they needed to help me in the best way, including telling them our correct location.  

I am incredibly proud of her for remaining calm in what was a terrifying situation for her and for staying focussed on the importance of the information she had to provide to the 111 operator, the paramedics and then the doctors at the hospital.  

My father was a Policeman for 45 years and a fireman for most of that time as well, so I have had some experience with emergency services during my lifetime. 

As a result, I have always tried to teach both my children about the NZ 111 service and the value of all emergency services but, as I have always stayed reasonably fit and healthy, I never expected that that they would need to call 111 for me. 

NOTE: Click on this link to hear Libby’s edited 111 call (or right click and click Save Target As to save to your computer– it could be the most life-changing 3.41 minutes you’ll hear for some time). 

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