Hayley Painter, Southlake Regional Health Centre

On December 20th, 2019 while out shopping, Hayley Painter heard a cry for help. As a Registered Nurse, Hayley did not hesitate to jump in to assist. Hayley was in the midst of paying for her lunch in the large food court area at Square One Mall when she heard someone yell to call an ambulance.

Without hesitation Hayley went to see if she could help. She was shocked when she came across a baby chocking. A bystander was holding the baby upside down not knowing what to do.  Hayley saw that the baby was blue, so she instinctively took the baby from the bystander and performed the Heimlich maneuver.

When Hayley turned the baby over she saw that he remained a dangerous blue colour, his eyes wide open, and he made no sound. She could see something green coloured stuck in his throat and pulled it out. As she turned him over he was unresponsive.


Hayley initiated CPR, all the while she was fearful she might hurt the baby. “I did a few chest compressions, my nurse mind came up in total focus. I knew instinctively what to do.”

Hayley continued with chest compressions and the baby thankfully responded. He took a breath and started breathing on his own. A young security guard arrived and wondered whether 911 still was required to which Hayley confirmed the urgent need as although the baby was breathing on his own he continued to be lethargic with poor colour.

Hayley carried the baby over to comfort the baby’s mother who was sobbing uncontrollably on the floor. Hayley continued to watch over both mom and baby while they waited for the ambulance to arrive.

Like many parents, the mother had given the young infant something to eat while he was in his stroller. The infant was facing away from the mother so she didn’t notice that anything was wrong. It was a bystander that grabbed the mother’s attention when she noticed the little boy was blue.

EMS arrived to take the infant to hospital. Hayley was thankful that the Mom had lots of family around to go with her to the hospital, otherwise she would not have hesitated to go with them.

The cheers of the bystanders brought Hayley out of her nursing mode and back to reality. Hayley commented, “It was very emotional and overwhelming. I knew they just needed to get the baby to the hospital… I’m a mother and I’ve given my kids something to eat in their strollers 1000 times. I still don’t know what he choked on.”

Later that night Hayley received a phone call from the mother; her baby boy was fine. The baby was discharged home from the hospital and was completely back to normal that night.  The doctor told the mom that he was one lucky little boy, the nurse had saved his life.

Hayley was overwhelmed to hear from the Mom. She was reassured that the little boy was alright. The Mom couldn’t thank Hayley enough for saving her baby’s life. The next day was his 1st birthday and Hayley was invited to his birthday party. Hayley explained to the Mom that she herself had to work the next day, but she wished him a very happy birthday. “Every December 20th I will never forget this little boy,” Hayley said.

Hayley is very humble about her heroic actions, “I didn’t do anything that any other nurse would have done.” Hayley finds comfort and support in sharing the story with other nurses at Southlake. In telling her story Hayley heard from others who have stepped up to help while out and about in their communities. “Talking to others who do this all the time helps to put things into perspective” she said.

Hayley is advocating for everyone to make sure they are educated in first aid. “Public awareness is important, refresher courses are important. Everyone should have basic first aid, especially when you are a parent with young kids.”

Hayley returned to work on the Post-Partum Unit at Southlake the next day continuing to reflect on what occurred. For Hayley the incident rekindled the important work that nurses do every day; a rebirth of what nursing means to her.

Kudos to Hayley Painter – a hero to this little boy, his mother and family, and to all of us, her Southlake family. 

Nominated by Lorrie Reynolds,  Director Patient Experience, Southlake Regional Health Centre