JUST days after impressing on his officers the importance of teamwork and looking after each other, Sgt Andy Gore found himself fighting for breath, his eyesight and ultimately his life.

Working as a response officer in Blackburn for 22 years Sgt Gore will have been on hundreds if not thousands of 999 calls but it was the call to Ash Grove, Darwen, on April 16 which ‘ruined his life as it was’.

Attending emergency calls always come with risk – after all they are emergencies – but Sgt Gore could never have expected Paul Elliott to throw an ammonia-based chemical in his face. But that it what happened.

The attack has left the father-of-four partially sighted in his left eye at present and battling just to get some vision restored.

The once confident, self-assured career-driven officer has been transformed into one who is now dependant on care, and severely restricted by medication, physical impairments and financial hardship. None of his own doing.

Messenger Newspapers:

It has also left the 44-year-old, who was being supported by senior management last summer to be promoted to inspector, now wondering what career progression or roles with Lancashire Police are available to him.

A dedicated family man, Sgt Gore said as a result of the life-changing injuries caused, he has missed being able to attend key milestones in his children’s lives, such as his son’s first football match. And he has had to cope with the realisation that his children would now see him as vulnerable.

Speaking about the attack, Sgt Gore said: “I attended an incident at work where chemicals, which are believed to be ammonia based, were thrown into my face. I can honestly say that this was the worst point in my life. Everything changed at this point.

"At the point of assault I was walking upstairs, I fell to the floor and fell down the stairs. I then blacked out and when I awoke, had complete sensory failure. I regained my composure leaning against a sink.

"I had the most horrendous pain in my mouth, nose, face and eyes. I genuinely thought I was going to die. I had visions in my head of my children and wife, thinking will I ever see them again. The pain in my throat was my main concern. I could not breathe properly, and was gasping for air. All around me I could hear shouting, but I felt alone and isolated, swilling my face with water, not knowing whether I was still at risk, or whether what I was doing was doing any good or not.”

Messenger Newspapers:

Having been given an estimated ambulance response time of two hours, Sgt Gore was driven to Royal Blackburn Hospital by his police colleagues.

He said: “I had to be walked out of the address like a blind man. I was helped by colleagues but I could not see with both eyes tightly closed, was struggling for breath, but at the same time was still spitting out the chemicals which were in my mouth and throat, and which were still being rejected from my body through retching and straining, and trying to vomit. This point was one of utmost vulnerability. I had no control of my body, movement or future. I could not see, could barely breathe and was in the most pain I have ever been in.”

Sgt Gore was placed in a resuscitation room where medical staff swarmed over him explaining their probable need to intubate him and place him into a coma due to the swelling within his windpipe, and concerns that the burns and swelling could restrict his breathing further. At that point a colleague had to call his wife.

Messenger Newspapers:

Among the injuries suffered were the burning off of the taste buds on Sgt Gore’s tongue and a chemical burn to the surface and other sections of the left eye, which has restricted the vision to the current very poor state. Having had two failed operations to restore vision in his eye, the last test showed that Sgt Gore could see at one metre what others could see at 36 metres.

He will now have to wait until after October 2020 for possible stem cell surgery, which he said “effectively placed his life on hold both personally and professionally".

He added: “The impact of this assault has ruined my life as it was.

I may get some vision back if the eye can receive stem cells next year, but this is not guaranteed, and I have to push forward in my life, assuming I will only have vision in one eye on a permanent basis. My children have asked why people stare when we are out together, and I am now more aware than ever, that people only see the closed eye and injury, rather than the person behind it.

“Psychologically I am still receiving treatment and have been suffering from flashbacks and often see shadows moving which simply are not there. I have transformed from a confident, self assured, career driven person who felt he could look after himself and his family, to one who is now dependent on care, and is severely restricted by medication, physical impairments and financial hardships, none of which are my doing.”

Sgt Gore said he had been humbled by the “unprecedented levels of support from across the UK, from colleagues and police management, to politicians and complete strangers”.