‘He was limp and his eyes glazed but I managed to save my baby’s life’

Gemma and James Ereira

Gemma and James Ereira - Credit: Gemma Ereira

A first aid class saved baby James' life.

'He was limp and slumped in his chair, his eyes glazed… I thought I'd lost my boy.'

This was the terrifying moment when James Ereira stopped breathing.

'His lifeless and quiet body slumping onto my shoulder will haunt me forever,' said his mum, Gemma. 'He looked like he'd dozed off, but his eyes were open,'

James was silent, limp and not breathing. But instead of panicking, Gemma saved his life.

'I turned him round, head down over my knee. (I was kneeling on the floor next to his chair still). I gave him three back blows. He suddenly cried really loudly and I saw half a grape on the floor.'

That was all it took to bring one-year-old James back – but Gemma only knew how because she had taken a first aid class.

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And now she wants other parents to make sure they have first aid training, and be aware that even cutting grapes lengthways, as she did and as recommended for one-year-olds, could have proved fatal.

'I was calm at the time purely because it was like instinct to give back blows, and I stayed calm because I knew that if that hadn't worked I could have turned him over and given chest thrusts,' said Gemma. But these were things I didn't know before Joe's class.'

She and her husband, Jonny, had taken a two-hour first aid class run by Joe Ellis-Gage, of Wymondham, who is also a paediatric A&E nurse.

So, that lunchtime, when she cleared plates into the kitchen and returned, just two seconds later to see her only child slumped in his chair, she knew exactly what to do.

Joe said: 'Gemma just remembered everything I told her. She saw the problem, stepped in and fixed it and it was fine. But he was completely blocked and not breathing, so she saved his life.'

'I then called my mum and burst into tears,' Gemma admitted. 'I would just like to get across that even though the grape was cut in half length-ways babies can still choke.'

She also messaged Joe to check whether she should do anything else. 'I remember him saying if you give chest thrusts to go to A&E. He congratulated me and said he was proud of me as I did what I needed to do and saved my son's life.'

'If it hadn't been for Joe's class I would have probably just shook and screamed and called an ambulance and ran into the street to see if someone could help,' she said. 'The thing that scares me the most is how quickly and quietly it all happened. I always thought if I needed to help with choking it would be after 10 minutes of coughing first. I'm just so thankful I did Joe's course so my instinct was to give back blows and my baby boy could breathe again.'

Later Gemma arranged for Joe, of Mini First Aid Norfolk, to run sessions in the village hall at Queens Hill, near Norwich, so that the whole community could benefit.

Gemma said: 'I always thought a first aid course would be a useful thing to do but they seemed so expensive. So when I saw Joe's baby and child first aid course, for two hours for £20, I jumped at it. It's a small fee to learn how to save a life.

'The reason his class is so good is he is a relatable parent. He doesn't make the class scary. I did another first aid class before and I felt nervous I'd never remember the right amount of breaths to chest thrusts in CPR. 'Whereas Joe gives you the confidence and says as long as you do something it's better than nothing.

'Everyone should do the course.'

And James, now 17 months, is the living, breathing proof.

Joe Ellis-Gage launched Mini First Aid Norfolk last year and has since taught first aid skills to more than 1,000 parents, expectant parents, grandchildren, childcare workers and children.

'The most important thing to do if a child chokes is stay calm, reassure the child and encourage them to cough,' said Joe. 'If they are unable to cough or their colour changes then you step in quickly with back blows and then abdominal thrusts or chest thrusts for under-ones. These skills can be learnt by attending a class where you get hands on practise with baby and child manikins.'