HAMILTON TOWNSHIP — Preschool owner Melode Davis-Holland knew exactly what she had to do when a 1-year-old child had a seizure and turned blue Tuesday.
It was lunchtime at the Davis-Holland Learning Center, which cares for about 80 children from 6 weeks to 12 years old, and Jasleen Chacon-Fernandez, age 1, wasn’t well.
Davis-Holland said Jasleen had just awakened from a nap. The staff gave the toddler her lunch and she wouldn’t eat. The staff immediately saw the little girl didn’t look well and her temperature was warm.
“When they put thermometer under her arm to take her temperature, she shrieked,” Davis-Holland said.
The child began convulsing, and the preschool staff ran into Davis-Holland’s office with a limp Jasleen in their arms.
“I immediately told my assistant to call 911. I took the baby and put her on the flood and she started to turn blue,” Davis-Holland said.
When she was on the phone with 911 and reported the child’s condition, the operator asked if she knew CPR, because she was going to need to do it.
Davis-Holland said she drew on the annual training she completes each year and began performing CPR.
Even with training, at the moment when you have to use it, you’re in shock, she said.
“I’ve worked in child care for 22 years and have never been faced with anything like this before. I was scared and terrified. I didn’t want to lose this child. There was a strong possibility she wasn’t going to make it, and we were all crying,” she said.
With the ambulance on the way and CPR continuing, Davis-Holland said, there was finally relief when she saw the toddler’s chest moving because she was breathing.
She and her staff members carried the child to the ambulance, and the girl was taken to the hospital, she said.
“I am just so proud to say that even with something like this, ultimately every child is safe at Davis-Holland Learning Center, and I credit training. Every year I make sure my staff is trained in CPR and first aid. You take that class, and you hope it’s never going to happen,” she said.
The state requirements imposed by the New Jersey Department of Children and Families dictate what protocols child care facilities must follow when staff face a life-or-death situation, spokesman Ernest Landante Jr. said.
The state requires child-care centers to ensure that at least two staff members who have current, certified basic knowledge of first aid principles and cardiopulmonary resuscitation — CPR — as defined by a recognized health organization be in the center at all times when enrolled children are present.
State requirements also dictate that child care centers ensure all newly hired staff members receive orientation training when hired, and complete all of the required areas, including emergency procedures, within two weeks of their hire date and prior to working without direct supervision by an approved staff member 18 or older.
Lynette Galante, vice president of the New Jersey Child Care Association, said preschool owners such as Davis-Holland are often inside child care centers, and share the same responsibilities as staff members and parents who entrust their children to them.
Children in such care are with their providers and teachers for about 10 hours a day, Galante said.
“There are a lot of things that we do on the day to day, as far as providing for the children we are responsible for. There are children who have a 104-degree fever, and we’re holding them and caring for them like they’re our own. We’ve had children have seizures in our facility, and by the quick thinking and action of staff the children are saved,” Galante said.
She said between her two Future Generation Early Learning Centers of Northern New Jersey, about six children’s lives have been saved in the past 20 years.
When it comes to choking situations, child-care staff must be very careful with a choking child, take precautions and be trained to keep a level head, Galante said. The Heimlich maneuver has been used often on choking children in her facilities, she said.
“People like her (Davis-Holland) are the unsung heroes. Very few people hear about the good things that happen at child care centers. The New Jersey Child Care Association will be sending an award commending her action. These are things we need to know about so people are aware of the good that is happening,” Galante said.
On Wednesday, Jasleen was at home recovering with her family, said her mother, Yoharris Chacon-Fernandez.
Chacon-Fernandez said she is glad Holland was there to help her daughter.
“I am very happy she’s OK. She is feeling much better now,” she said.
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