The Duke of Cambridge has hailed emergency services heroes who “run straight towards the danger”, facing their “deepest fears” to save the lives of others.
The Duke, who met nominees at the Who Cares Wins awards, said he was “so proud” of brave children and the professionals who have gone above and beyond to help the public.
William presented the “999 heroes” award to Deena Evans and Michael Hipgrave who were stabbed on duty as paramedics during a routine call-out.
Ms Evans, 40-year-old a mother-of-three, was stabbed twice in the chest, before Mr Hipgrave - who stepped forward to protect her - was stabbed in the back.
Both have now returned to work on the front line. Their attacker was jailed for nine years after admitting two charges of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.
The Duke, a former air ambulance pilot, appeared at the awards ceremony at the Roundhouse in North London, meeting with nominees backstage before hailing the 999 Heroes.
“Every day our emergency services deal with high-pressured, challenging situations,” he said.
“When most of us would, quite naturally, turn away and seek safety, our emergency responders rise to the occasion - running straight towards the danger to provide vital and often life-saving support.
“Very modestly, they will tell you that this does not make them heroes, and it is all done in the name of duty.
“But sometimes a situation will occur that tests the resolve of even the most experienced responder.
“In times like these, they must face their deepest fears and find the most astonishing level of courage to overcome the obstacles in front of them. And that is truly heroic.
“The winners of this award faced just such a situation, but I am delighted to say they survived and are here this evening.”
The Duke went on to meet other nominees for the awards, hosted by The Sun.
He listened in amazement as Professor Keyoumars Ashkan from King’s College Hospital described operating on a violinist who played throughout her brain surgery so he could make sure her brain was not harmed.
“Did you make sure she played a calm and quiet piece,” he quipped, gesticulating out-of-control hands. “Not something fast otherwise you’d have your hands going around.”
Next up were Joel Gibbard and Samantha Payne, founders of Open Bionics, which created the “Hero Arm”: a lightweight and affordable prosthesis for below-elbow amputees, which now comes in a range of Disney covers for children.
One of their children, nine-year-old Phoebe Sinclair, showed him her high-tech robotic arm, smiling as he asked: “Do your friends think it’s so cool?”
Approaching a group from the Oxford Covid-19 vaccine team, nominated for the “groundbreaking pioneer or discovering team”, the Duke greeted them like old friends and reminisced about his visit to their labs.
Hailing their pioneering work which changed the course of the pandemic, he said he had been impressed to see the UK “punching above its weight” in research.
“In all these areas, the world is watching us now,” he said.
Professor Sir Andrew Pollard and Professor Teresa Lambe OBE emphasised afterwards that the vaccine had also been an international effort, with a multicultural team based in Oxford.
One of the lighter moments of the evening came as the Duke spoke to Captain Shaun Rose, a pilot with Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance (SCAA) teamwho were recognised for the “nerve-shredding” rescue of Highlands walker Duncan Stevenson, who “died seven times” while flying through a snow storm to hospital.
Captain Rose and the Duke, an air ambulance pilot himself, swapped notes and memories about flying, as well as the dramatic rescue operation through the hills.
The Duke said he missed his flying days, adding they were “good fun” before asking: “I bet you have some stories?”
Capt Rose and his wife Mandy regaled the Duke with a tale of an unfortunate donkey who got too close to a helicopter landing and was successfully resuscitated with a defibrillator.
“No mouth to mouth though?” the Duke confirmed.