Ambulance service paramedic saves life of close friend

A PARAMEDIC, who was called to an incident in Saffron Walden, did not expect he would soon be saving the life of a close friend of more than 20 years.

When 39-year-old John Hammond, from the East of England Ambulance Service (EEAS), arrived at the scene of a possible heart attack he immediately recognised the victim – a former colleague from his previous job on the railways.

Mr Hammond worked with Tony Hedger for 15 years before he left in 2004 to retrain as a paramedic, but the pair remained close friends.

Mr Hedger, 68, said: “We always got on with each other at work, and we both live in Saffron Walden, so we stayed in touch.

“I started having chest pains one day back in January, and at first I just thought it was indigestion. When we called the ambulance service, it didn’t occur to me that it might be John who turned up to help me.”

As soon as Mr Hammond received the call from the control room, he immediately had an inkling his patient might turn out to be someone he knew.

“When I was given the location, I thought it could either be my uncle or my friend Tony because they both live on that road,” he said.

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As soon as he arrived at the patient’s house, with emergency medical technician Steve Atkins, they took an ECG and quickly determined that he was having a heart attack. They got him into the ambulance ready to go to hospital, but Mr Hedger went into cardiac arrest, meaning his heart completely stopped.

“I used the defibrillator to shock Tony once, and fortunately his cardiac rhythm resumed normality straight away,” said Mr Hammond.

“I’ve never had to provide this type of treatment to someone I know, but the training just kicked in and I did what I needed to do to get him back. Later on, though, I had to fight back the tears.”

Mr Hedger went into cardiac arrest three more times at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, but each time he was resuscitated by hospital staff. Because of his condition, an urgent treatment called a PPCI was needed, so Mr Hammond took his friend to Papworth Hospital by ambulance.

“I got to watch the PPCI procedure being done, and I was there when Tony woke up. I felt such a sense of relief when he came round,” said Mr Hammond.

After a few days Mr Hedger was able to return home, and has now made a full recovery.

His wife Pauline said: “There is absolutely no doubt that John saved Tony’s life. He’s been a good friend to us for many years, and now that bond is even stronger.

“We are so grateful to John and his crewmate Steve, as well all as the hospital staff.”