Hero poster girl

IT is a story that could have come straight from the scenes of a film – a toddler, found face down in a pond, is saved by a hero who breathes life back into her tiny body.

IT is a story that could have come straight from the scenes of a film - a toddler, found face down in a pond, is saved by a hero who breathes life back into her tiny body.

But for Maddy Sparrow that story is fact, not fiction - and she owes her life to the quick-thinking Red Cross first-aider who stepped in when it seemed all hope was lost.

The 22-year-old, a former pupil at Woodbridge School, is now fronting a national poster campaign as part of Red Cross week, which she unveiled yesterday.

Her story unfolded in June 1983, when she was almost two years old and was attending a Red Cross garden fete in Woodbridge with her family.


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"My mum was helping out on a stall," recalled Miss Sparrow. "She asked her best friend to look after me, but I was such a naughty little kid that I wandered off.

"I found a pond, which was covered in netting, but somehow I ended up in it. My mum's friend came looking for me, found me and started screaming.

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"I had turned blue, I had hypothermia and my jaw had clamped shut - my mum thought I was dead."

She added: "Then this first-aider, Bob Griffin, shook all of the water out of me and did nose to mouth resuscitation.

"I came round and did the dramatic Baywatch water spluttering thing and then they rushed me to hospital under police escort.

"The doctors thought I might be brain-damaged because of the time I spent under water. But I came round, opened my eyes and asked for a banana - my mum picked me up and apparently all the nurses started crying. It was pretty full-on and dramatic."

Miss Sparrow, now a promoter in London, and her family kept in close contact with Mr Griffin until he died last year. "I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for him," she said. "I owe him my life."

Because of her exceptional story and her gratitude to Mr Griffin, Miss Sparrow jumped at the chance to be part of the poster campaign, which will see her face plastered around 160 stations and airports across the country.

"I decided to get involved because without Bob and without his first aid training I wouldn't be here today," she explained.

"The more people that know about my story and the more people that it helps to become associated with the Red Cross, the better.

"To be honest, I'm looking forward to it - but I might have to wear a cap for the next week or so."

Donna Williams, regional Red Cross operations director, said: "Maddy's story is quite exceptional, but represents so many Red Cross local heroes who give their time, day in and day out, to help other people.

"We're asking any local people to help us in whatever way they can during Red Cross week so that we can help more people in Suffolk."

RED CROSS FACTFILE

Last year, the Suffolk branch of the Red Cross:

n attended 355 public duties and treated more than 637 casualties

n loaned out medical equipment to 2,685 people

n assisted 21 people whose property had been affected by fire or flood

n provided transport for 1,062 people

n provided respite care so 45 people with disabilities could have a seaside holiday.

Anyone wanting to be a red cross volunteer should contact Alana Smith on 01394 610419.

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