Tom Higgins has spent 45 years helping others as a paramedic. He's served with multiple ambulance companies from Torrington to Naugatuck and has assisted the elderly as a part-time employee for Where The Heart Is.
Now, after decades of administering medical care to others, Higgins himself is in need of some help.
The 62-year-old Higgins, a Naugatuck resident who works with Waterbury-based Campion Ambulance, has been diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer that has metastasized on his heart and lungs.
He has been undergoing chemotherapy in recent months and hasn’t been able to work. Despite being insured, Higgins still has mounting medical bills due to the procedures, said fellow Campion paramedic Pete Johnson, who works with Higgins at the .
But the very companies that Higgins has worked with for over four decades are now banning together to give him some financial support.
A group of Higgins’ fellow medics and EMTs — from Campion, AMR and area ambulance companies — are organizing a pasta dinner with raffle to raise money for his bills, Johnson said.
The dinner will be at the Prospect Fire Department, located at 26 New Haven Road in Prospect, on Feb. 24, from 5 to 11 p.m. A Facebook page has been set up for the event.
Higgins first became a paramedic over four decades ago, after he was discharged following his service during the Vietnam War, said Roberta O’Donnell, a friend and colleague for many years. He has worked with Campion in Torrington and Waterbury, and has been stationed as a paremdic in Naugatuck for at least 15-20 years, O’Donnell said. He’s also worked for an EMS company in Hartford, she said.
“Tommy was always a good medic,” said Larry Santoro, who noted that he’s worked with Higgins when they were both in Torrington. “He did his job, he did what he had to do.”
Higgins’ bout with cancer started in November. He contracted bronchitis and, after seeing no signs of healing, admitted himself to the emergency room, O’Donnell said. Following an examination, doctors discovered that Higgins needed a triple bypass surgery and, after undergoing the operation, they later local small cell cancer outside Higgins’ right lung, she said.
“It’s one of the worst ones but it’s the one that responds well to chemotherapy,” O’Donnell said. “They have increased the survival rate from 9 percent to 34-40 percent.”
But, O'Donnell noted, Higgin's friends are pulling for him and are hoping the best for his recovery.