Virtual assistants such as Siri sometimes get criticised for not being as helpful as their creators claim. But one Australian woman has thanked Apple for its voice-activated program, after it helped save the life of her one-year-old baby.

Stacey Gleeson’s daughter, Giana, had been battling a chest infection and bronchiolitis. When her mother noticed on the baby monitor that she had turned blue, Stacey ran into Giana’s room to help her.

In a panic, Gleeson dropped her iPhone 6s as she turned on the light. She found that her daughter was no longer breathing.

"I picked her up and sat down with her on the floor and as I checked her airways [...] I looked over and remembered my phone,” Mrs Gleeson told 7 News. As she began CPR on Giana, she shouted: “Hey Siri, call the ambulance.”

By the time the paramedics arrived, Giana was breathing again. Doctors confirmed that there was no lasting damage, but every second saved had been vital. Gleeson said that had she not dropped the iPhone, she would have likely struggled to dial the number in her frantic state.

"Saving me the trouble of having to physically dial emergency services was a godsend," she told the BBC.

The incident took place in March, but only hit the headlines this week after Gleeson contacted Apple, which alerted the Australian news outlet.

"As cheesy as it sounds I wanted to say thank you," she said. "I had played around with Siri, I thought it was a fun feature. Now I have that feature turned on all the time and it will never be turned off again."

Not everyone enables voice-activated services on their smartphones, as some worry about accidently launching them. The 7 News report that aired the story had to censor out the words “Hey, Siri,” to avoid triggering the assistant on the iPhones of viewers at home. But cases like the Gleeson's show just how valuable these programs' abilities can be.

"Everybody should be aware of the abilities of their phone," said the girl's father, Nic Gleeson.