Natalie Akoorie

Natalie Akoorie is a reporter at the NZ Herald based in Hamilton.

Ambulance officer heals bodies and souls

New Bishop-elect of Waiapu will continue as ambulance volunteer.

Bishop-elect Andrew Hedge feels a strong link between his faith and St John's care of the sick. Photo / Greg Bowker
Bishop-elect Andrew Hedge feels a strong link between his faith and St John's care of the sick. Photo / Greg Bowker

When Andrew Hedge comes to the aid of the sick and dying, a look of calm crosses the patient's face.

That's because the multi-tasking ambulance officer is also a man of the cloth.

Mr Hedge, who was named at the weekend as the next Bishop of the Waiapu Diocese, has for the past four years ridden twice a week with the St John Ambulance service in the Waikato.

So when he appears before medical and trauma patients, they often recognise the Anglican priest, who has been vicar of Cambridge for more than six years.

"Those really nice moments are when you walk into somebody's home and I recognise the person and they recognise me and you can see a sense of calm come over them," Bishop-elect Hedge said.

The 41-year-old became a volunteer ambulance officer after assisting St John as a chaplain and discovering a strong connection between his faith and St John's day-to-day care of people.

"I thought, 'There's an environment I could feel really at home in', and it sparked an interest for me and it's become a bit of a passion."

Bishop Hedge worked his way up from a first responder to an emergency medical technician, having completed the national diploma in ambulance practice last year, and accompanies paid paramedics or intensive care paramedics on his two shifts each week.

"We go to a variety of different medical and trauma cases and we can expect to find anything from somebody who just needs a bit of gentle care and perhaps transport to a doctor, right on to life-threatening emergency."

Most weeks he manages to juggle a day shift on a Monday, his day off, and a night shift later in the week with his duties as vicar, as well as devoting time to his wife, Raewyn, and their children Jessica, 15, Ethan, 12, and Caitlin, 10.

On Saturday, at an investiture ceremony in Auckland, Bishop Hedge was made a member of the Order of St John in recognition of his commitment to the community and the service.

He said he was grateful to the Anglican Church for the flexibility and hoped to continue with St John when he took up his new position as bishop based in Hawkes Bay later this year.

Versatile vicar
*The Venerable Andrew Hedge is the Bishop-elect of the Waiapu Diocese, covering the Bay of Plenty, East Coast and Hawkes Bay.
*He is also a fully trained and qualified St John volunteer, riding with the ambulance service in Waikato twice a week.
*The 41-year-old became a volunteer ambulance officer after assisting St John as a chaplain.
*He does not wear his clerical collar or other attire, just a St John uniform.
*Most weeks, he manages to juggle a day shift on a Monday, his day off, and a night shift later in the week with his duties as vicar.

- NZ Herald

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