For eight years, Nikki Jurcutz worked as a paramedic on thousands of jobs, but there was one in particular that stopped her in her tracks.
Since she was a child Nikki Jurcutz always wanted to help people.
Becoming a paramedic felt like a natural fit for the Victorian woman — until a harrowing on-the-job experience prompted her to reconsider her work and eventually quit the industry so she could prevent another situation like it from happening.
“This particular job was with a really young little bub,” she told news.com.au.
“The parents were talking us through what had happened and myself and my partner had walked in, immediately laid our eyes on this baby, scooped this baby up and ran out to the ambulance.
“We called intensive care and we knew she was in immediate life threat, we had to ventilate her on the way to hospital.”
While the job was just one of thousands Ms Jurcutz, now 33 and a mum of two, attended during her eight year career as a paramedic, it would prove pivotal in her next career move.
‘They didn’t realise how sick she was’
Fortunately the medical intervention came at the right time and the baby survived, but Ms Jurcutz was left unsettled.
“She was really, really, sick and I could tell by the demeanour of the parents and how relaxed they were about the situation they didn’t realise how sick she was,” she said.
“Luckily they had called at the time they did, because it was very very close to them losing their baby and it was one of those jobs, that really stops you in your tracks.”
Unfortunately the parents’ situation wasn’t an isolated incident, with Ms Jurcutz seeing it repeated again and again on the jobs she was called out to.
“As I was out on the road I was seeing it all the time, whether it was in workplaces, in the public or at homes,” she said.
In particular she was “seeing this narrative over and over again” that parents were ill-equipped on how to help their children if they got sick or injured, through no fault of their own.
“These parents, I felt sorry for them, and every single job that I went to after this realisation, I was like trying to give them as much information to empower them,” Ms Jurcutz said.
She would often discuss the issue with sister Rach Waia who was her go-to “debrief person” after paramedic shifts.
At the time of the baby incident, Ms Waia had recently become a parent herself for the first time and remarked how she too had been given little information about how to help her bub in a medical emergency.
“It just became a conversation where I said to Rach, ‘we need to be the solution’,” Ms Jurcutz said.
‘It might be scary, but a scarier thought is losing your child’
The sisters, who had always wanted to go into business together, founded Tiny Hearts Education in 2013.
Ms Jurcutz is the CEO, while Ms Waia, who has a background in education, is the national training manager.
For the first three years of operation Ms Jurcutz continued to work as a paramedic before eventually quitting so she could focus on the business full time.
The business runs baby first aid and birthing courses as well as selling child-specific medical equipment, including first aid kits.
Tiny Hearts Education also has more than 480,000 followers across Instagram, TikTok and Facebook where they share posts on everything from what to do if your child is choking or how a red “line” can by a sign of life-threatening infection.
Some of their posts can make for uncomfortable viewing for parents, like this one they shared last month showing how cold sores can badly infect babies and went viral.
“It is a fine line to walk between what’s too confronting, but then what’s also going to empower people, and it’s something we do talk about here a lot and we make sure it’s on the side of empowering, not scaring,” she said.
Ultimately, Ms Jurcutz wants Tiny Hearts Education help parents be more confident as she believes in the saying that “you don’t rise to your level of expectation, you fall to your level of training”.
“I constantly ask parents, what is that level you are falling to? And if that level means you actually don’t know what to do in an emergency with your child that’s too low, because they’re relying on you,” she said.
“It might be scary, but a scarier thought is losing your child when you could have saved them.”
Her top tips for parents when it comes to their children is that “prevention is key” and that doing something in a medical emergency is better than nothing.
“Any attempt at first aid in general is better than no attempt. Just try something even if it is a stranger’s child, remember that person is loved,” Ms Jurcutz said.