Life saver

Paramedic for 40 years - Bryan Hughes.
Bryan at the wheel of an ambulance on Christmas Day, 1982, when he was on call. File picture by Paul Rickard

One of the things Bryan Hughes loves about being an ambulance officer is seeing people he has helped walking around years later living a good life. The St John paramedic has worked in Tairawhiti for more than 37 years — either from a helicopter or ambulance. He turned 65 on Tuesday, and the week before that got what he described as the ‘biggest , nicest, surprise of his life’ — being presented with a 2020 New Zealand Local Hero award. He spoke with Sophie Rishworth.

Some ambulance jobs keep the adrenalin pumping a long time after they are finished, says St John paramedic Bryan Hughes.

One of those jobs was a few years ago. Bryan was part of the crew on a helicopter rescue. A toddler had almost drowned in a pond up the East Coast but the parents had managed to get their child’s pulse back by performing CPR.

Bryan remembers being lowered from the helicopter, on to a rock the size of a dining table, into the middle of the pond that also had a waterfall feeding into it. He remembers great piloting by Neil Dods who said to him:
“This is going to be fast. When I say ‘get out’, get out.”

He took over the “great work” the parents had done, and remembers willing the helicopter to go faster as they flew back to Gisborne Hospital.
“That child is walking around healthy and having a good life.
“Getting someone’s pulse back means you have given them a chance — it’s no guarantee but it’s a chance.”
And that is one of the neatest feelings, he says.

Bryan celebrated his 65th birthday on Tuesday, cut down his hours by half and received a KiwiBank Local Heroes award.
“It’s felt a bit strange this week,” he admits.

He’d like to know who nominated him for the Local Hero award. They got 90 percent of what they said right, so it must have been an inside job, he says.

Bryan loves his career as a paramedic — no two days are ever the same.

As a teenager he wanted to be a paramedic in the Army. But his parents would not let him. The Vietnam War had just ended and Bryan thinks it might have had something to do with that.

Instead, he joined the local ambulance service as a night shift volunteer, while working his day job as a builder.
“My bosses were very good, and understood.”

When he became a permanent member of the St John staff in 1982, he started up volunteer work with the fire brigade.

In 1994 he became a Serving Brother of the Order of St John, and in 1999 was made an Officer.
He is night vision-trained, and long line-trained for his work as part of the helicopter crew.
He has spent “countless hours in the rain” on the rugby field at the Oval during his paramedic career, and is also an endorsed NZTA Instructor to teach recruits how to drive an ambulance.

He teaches defensive driving skills, including that the brain takes .75 of a second to process a hazard. Plus, even though ambulance drivers are permitted to go over the speed limit by 30kmh, that should not be seen as a right, he says.
“But it may help your defence in court.”

Over almost four decades of ambulance work, Bryan has worked up the East Coast and south to the Whareratas.
Even though their arrival may not have been expected, or wanted, people were always extremely nice to the ambulance crew, he said.
“You were welcomed.
“You give to the community and they give back to you. It has been a wonderful career, and a lovely journey.”
He won’t be shy of things to do with his extra time.
“My family always wants something done.”

In 1978, he married his “very supportive” wife Janet. The couple have three children, who are all now in their 30s, and “four lovely grandchildren”.

Their daughter Amanda works as an Emergency Department nurse at Gisborne Hospital — this means there are often occasions when their roles mean dad hands over patients to his daughter.

When he found out he had won a KiwiBank Local Heroes award, it was one of the biggest, nicest, surprises he has ever had.

Bryan was one of 18 people from this district who got a medal. They were the real heroes, he says.

One of the things Bryan Hughes loves about being an ambulance officer is seeing people he has helped walking around years later living a good life. The St John paramedic has worked in Tairawhiti for more than 37 years — either from a helicopter or ambulance. He turned 65 on Tuesday, and the week before that got what he described as the ‘biggest , nicest, surprise of his life’ — being presented with a 2020 New Zealand Local Hero award. He spoke with Sophie Rishworth.

Some ambulance jobs keep the adrenalin pumping a long time after they are finished, says St John paramedic Bryan Hughes.

One of those jobs was a few years ago. Bryan was part of the crew on a helicopter rescue. A toddler had almost drowned in a pond up the East Coast but the parents had managed to get their child’s pulse back by performing CPR.

Bryan remembers being lowered from the helicopter, on to a rock the size of a dining table, into the middle of the pond that also had a waterfall feeding into it. He remembers great piloting by Neil Dods who said to him:
“This is going to be fast. When I say ‘get out’, get out.”

He took over the “great work” the parents had done, and remembers willing the helicopter to go faster as they flew back to Gisborne Hospital.
“That child is walking around healthy and having a good life.
“Getting someone’s pulse back means you have given them a chance — it’s no guarantee but it’s a chance.”
And that is one of the neatest feelings, he says.

Bryan celebrated his 65th birthday on Tuesday, cut down his hours by half and received a KiwiBank Local Heroes award.
“It’s felt a bit strange this week,” he admits.

He’d like to know who nominated him for the Local Hero award. They got 90 percent of what they said right, so it must have been an inside job, he says.

Bryan loves his career as a paramedic — no two days are ever the same.

As a teenager he wanted to be a paramedic in the Army. But his parents would not let him. The Vietnam War had just ended and Bryan thinks it might have had something to do with that.

Instead, he joined the local ambulance service as a night shift volunteer, while working his day job as a builder.
“My bosses were very good, and understood.”

When he became a permanent member of the St John staff in 1982, he started up volunteer work with the fire brigade.

In 1994 he became a Serving Brother of the Order of St John, and in 1999 was made an Officer.
He is night vision-trained, and long line-trained for his work as part of the helicopter crew.
He has spent “countless hours in the rain” on the rugby field at the Oval during his paramedic career, and is also an endorsed NZTA Instructor to teach recruits how to drive an ambulance.

He teaches defensive driving skills, including that the brain takes .75 of a second to process a hazard. Plus, even though ambulance drivers are permitted to go over the speed limit by 30kmh, that should not be seen as a right, he says.
“But it may help your defence in court.”

Over almost four decades of ambulance work, Bryan has worked up the East Coast and south to the Whareratas.
Even though their arrival may not have been expected, or wanted, people were always extremely nice to the ambulance crew, he said.
“You were welcomed.
“You give to the community and they give back to you. It has been a wonderful career, and a lovely journey.”
He won’t be shy of things to do with his extra time.
“My family always wants something done.”

In 1978, he married his “very supportive” wife Janet. The couple have three children, who are all now in their 30s, and “four lovely grandchildren”.

Their daughter Amanda works as an Emergency Department nurse at Gisborne Hospital — this means there are often occasions when their roles mean dad hands over patients to his daughter.

When he found out he had won a KiwiBank Local Heroes award, it was one of the biggest, nicest, surprises he has ever had.

Bryan was one of 18 people from this district who got a medal. They were the real heroes, he says.

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