ALI Gibbett, Assistant Manager of the Devon Air Ambulance (DAA) Barnstaple charity shop performed lifesaving CPR when a member of the public suffered a sudden cardiac arrest in Bideford. 

Ali’s normal place of work is the DAA charity shop in Barnstaple, however, last October she was covering the charity's Bideford shop when she was suddenly faced with an emergency situation soon after opening. 

Ali explained: "On the day I was covering, I had just one volunteer, Chrissy, with me at the time and we had only been open for about half-an-hour.

"A gentleman I recognised from the newsagent’s nearby came running in and said someone had collapsed in the Co-op and asked if he could take our defibrillator.  

"I asked if he knew how to use it and as he was unsure, I thought I had better go with him as I had received training when I first joined DAA and had received yearly refresher training in my previous employment.

"I grabbed the AED (Automated External Defibrillator) and quickly ran round to the Co-op where the staff had already cleared the shop of all customers."

When Ali arrived, the patient was lying on the floor and a member of staff was already on the telephone to the emergency services.

Ali recalls that she could see that the patient was not breathing, and she instructed another Co-op team member to cut open the patient’s hoodie, allowing access to the chest in preparation for the use of the AED.  

Ali spoke to the 999 operator who instructed her to go ahead and apply the defibrillator pads to the patient’s chest, then, following the simple instructions provided automatically by the AED device, a shock was delivered, at this point Ali knew she was going to have to administer CPR as soon as the defib instructed her to do so. 

"I knew the ambulance was not far away, so I just got on with chest compressions as I had been taught by DAA, following the instructions from the AED.

"At the time adrenaline was getting me through it, and once the ambulance crew arrived, they told me to keep going until they were ready to take over, I was reassured that I had been doing everything right. 

"I felt somewhat confident of what to do, although this was my first experience of using the defib in a real lifesaving situation.

"At the time I just got on with what needed to be done, but later, when I got back to our shop, it started to sink in what I had just done, and I was shaky for a while afterwards.

"The Co-op staff came in later to thank me for my help and said that they had panicked a bit and were unsure of what to do.

"At that point I really recognised the value of the regular training I had received.

"I heard later that our helicopter had actually landed in the park nearby and had flown the patient to the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital. I was glad and relieved that I had done the best that I could do for him."

In 2023 DAA were tasked to attend 395 patients suffering a cardiac arrest, but only 49 of those people were assisted by a bystander who used a defibrillator before the emergency services arrived.

Evidence shows that early CPR and early use of a defibrillator can greatly improve the outcome for the patient concerned and a life could be saved. 

Charlotte Leventis, Head of Communications and Marketing at DAA commented: "We are incredibly proud of Ali for stepping in to help someone in need of urgent medical help.

"All our staff take part in a Basic Life Support training session as part of their induction with us, and this just proves how vital that training is for our teams.

"The majority of our charity shops have a defibrillator fitted outside their shops which are available 24/7 for anyone that needs to use them, and they are in unlocked cabinets for swift and easy access in an emergency. I would urge as many people as possible to register their interest in attending one of our CPR and Defib training sessions below."

Having experienced first-hand how vital bystander intervention can be during a cardiac arrest, Ali feels strongly that everyone who can, should engage in regular CPR and Defib training.  

Following on from a successful trial of DAA CPR and Defib training sessions held across the county in 2022 and 2023, the charity plans to run more sessions in 2024 as part of their Help With All Your Heart Campaign.

These invaluable sessions aim to educate people on the use of defibrillators, how to give effective chest compressions and instill the confidence needed to be able to step in and help should a loved one or even a stranger suffer a cardiac arrest nearby. 

If you would like to register your interest in attending a future CPR and Defib session with DAA when they become available, please register your interest by visiting: .