A Vermont fire department is celebrating the actions of a homeless man credited with rendering critical first-aid to a stranger who suffered a medical emergency behind the wheel of a tractor trailer.
James Pocock, who said he has been camping near the interstate in Williston for the past month, told necn he is jobless and was recently asked to leave the friend's place where he was crashing.
"It's challenging," Pocock said of homelessness, especially in this week's rainy weather.
In early May, Pocock's campsite turned out to be the perfect place to be to help change the future for a total stranger.
"It was kind of a divine intervention," he remembered.
His intervention had the Williston Fire Department hailing him as a hero Wednesday, and Paul Bristol of Whitefield, New Hampshire calling him a friend for life.
"If everybody helps as much as this guy helped me, the world would be totally different," Bristol said of Pocock's surprising entrance into his life.
A few weeks back, Bristol was driving through Williston, down I-89 South, when he had a heart attack behind the wheel of his tractor trailer. He noisily scraped along the interstate's guardrail and his truck lurched before coming to a stop.
Pocock raced from his nearby campsite to that big rig and found the driver unconscious.
"You didn't have time to [hesitate]," Pocock recalled.
Pocock said he once volunteered for a fire department in California, so knew CPR. He explained he performed chest compressions until the ambulance squad arrived to shock Bristol's heart back into rhythm—reviving him.
"He made a huge difference," Capt. Tim Gerry of the Williston Fire Department said of Pocock's assistance on May 4. "We're absolutely confident he played an absolutely key role in this whole outcome."
Bristol spent a week in the hospital, but now appears well on his way to a full recovery, perhaps because of those critical first few minutes when the homeless man kept the trucker's blood pumping and oxygen flowing to his brain.
"I think he's heaven-sent, I tell you the truth," Bristol said of Pocock. "In my situation — what he's done for me — I wouldn't be here unless he was."
Pocock said he is now focusing on turning his own situation around, adding he would like to find work and permanent housing.
Pocock is also using his unexpected time in the spotlight to urge people to learn CPR. He said anyone, anywhere could become a life-saver.
"It doesn't matter what level of society you're at," Pocock said of how he helped Bristol. "It matters what you do."
The Williston Fire Department encouraged people to contact the American Red Cross or their local fire departments for more information on learning CPR.