Bury St Edmunds employee’s life-saving skills put to test – four days after course

Aeli-Mai Pope
Aeli-Mai Pope
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A woman who rushed to give CPR to a man found collapsed in Bury St Edmunds says she was on ‘auto-pilot’ after completing a first aid course just four days earlier.

At around 11.45am last Tuesday, Aeli-Mai Pope was busy working in The Apex coffee shop when a woman burst in asking for a first aider.

Having just completed a one-day course with the British Red Cross, Sodexo’s recently promoted barista supervisor was ready to put her life-saving skills to the test – little did she know her first patient would be suffering from a cardiac arrest.

“Whenever I’ve spoken to people who have done first aid, all they’ve done is put someone’s arm in a sling or put a plaster on somebody – this wasn’t what you expect for your first first aid experience,” said Aeli-Mai, adding: “There was a small crowd around a man on the floor and a lady was doing CPR.

“She looked like she was tiring so I said ‘can I do anything to help’ and she said ‘yes, take over once I’ve done this count’.

“I was absolutely terrified. My mind was a bit of a blank to be honest – I was just working on auto-pilot from what I had learned on the course.”

The 21-year-old, who worked alongside an off-duty nurse and a doctor, said: “We managed to get him breathing which was crazy – I was so relieved. I was definitely in shock after. I couldn’t stop shaking and I was crying – I was definitely overwhelmed.”

She added: “I’d love to speak to the other people involved because it really was a team effort and I couldn’t have done it without their support. We all worked together and managed to perform something amazing.”

Wallis was forced to shut up shop for an hour while the scene unfolded outside.

Bridget Baldwin, the store’s deputy manager, said: “It was all very traumatic. Those ladies were amazing. I’ve never seen anything like them doing CPR – it was scary.”

Steve Smith, general manager of Sodexo, said: “Aeli-Mai has been working with us for six months and we think an awful lot of her so we wanted to promote her to a supervisory position and, to be a supervisor within this specific building, because of the number of people who come in here, you need a first aid certificate.

“To actually go out and do full CPR four days afterwards, well, what can you say? We’re incredibly proud of her. It’s a great reminder as to why first aid training is so important.”

If you are the man who was helped, please contact our newsdesk on 01284 757857.