(Originally posted in the Alaska Highway News and the Dawson Creek Mirror in my column ‘From the Desk of the Green-eyed girl’
What happens when you lose trust in something you believed to be rock solid? Something that you never questioned, that you never stopped for one minute to wonder about.
How do you go on? How do you move forward? How do you continue with your life now that you have a seed of doubt permanently planted into your psyche?
Our family recently were saturated in a downpour of seeds of doubt and left us questioning. Let me explain.
On Nov. 19, I received a call from one of my sisters that my mother had fallen down the stairs and she was hurt. Dad had called the ambulance and they were on their way. I said, “Holy crap (or something not as pretty),” and that I would meet them at the hospital. That call came to me at around 12:30 p.m.
I arrived at the hospital and began waiting for the ambulance. It shouldn’t take long: they live in Dawson Creek proper and nothing is more than 10 minutes away, even with rush hour. I’m thinking a half hour or so to get mom stabilized and transported to the hospital.
A half hour passed, so I anxiously called my sister and asked, “What is going on?”
Because mom was lying at the bottom of the stairs, the two Paramedics apparently needed the assistance of a second ambulance to help extricate and load her for transport. They had contacted Kamloops dispatch and one should be arriving shortly.
More than an hour had now passed and still no second ambulance. My 75-year-old mother had now been lying with a suspected femoral fracture at the bottom of the basement steps for an hour and 15 minutes. Thankfully, the Paramedics had been able to stabilize her and get pain meds into her—but still no sign of the additional ambulance.
I texted my sister: “Why not call the fire department to assist? What’s going on?”
At this point, someone must have made the call to find out where the missing ambulance was, and were advised that the call for the second ambulance had been inadvertently dropped—meaning that the request didn’t make it from the phone to the computer. No second ambulance was coming.
Thank goodness for the Dawson Creek Fire Department, because now they were dispatched and were on the scene in minutes. They helped lift and load mom into the ambulance and she was on her way to the hospital, 90 minutes after the incident occurred. It was 2 p.m.
But 90 minutes—90 minutes for my mom to lay on the bottom of the basement steps, 90 minutes for my father to wring his hands with anxiety about his wife of 50-plus years in pain and unable to do anything.
I heard the ambulance arrive at the hospital and my mother being brought inside. My sisters had driven my father down in their car and were coming into the hospital at the same time. He immediately went to check on mom and to be there by her side.
The next moment we heard screaming and I realized it was my mother and sister. I ran to the back to see my father had collapsed, my mother watching on from the gurney. Medical professionals are swarming the area, rapidly responding to the now changing emergent medical situation. In between the “stay with us, dad,” and the “Mom, its going to be okay,” we realized dad might have had a stroke or a heart episode. I truly believed it was brought on by the stress of the situation.
At this point, I need to say our medical team at the Dawson Creek hospital were amazing and our entire family is very grateful to have such a committed group of professionals at our local hospital. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you.
Meanwhile, they were stabilizing Dad, trying to determine what happened, and he and mom were lying side by side in the emergency ward. All my sisters and I are there by their bedside and the scene resembled one of those Kardashian Family Christmas card photoshoots.
As the hours wore on, my dad regained his speech and strength, and after having a CT it was determined he had probably suffered something called a TIA. Mom, on the other hand had suffered a femoral fracture/hip fracture, and was scheduled for surgery the following day. She was moved upstairs onto the ward to await surgery and dad was kept for observation in emergency.
Quite a day, right? Our lives were changing in a blink of the eye and we were powerless to do anything to stop the train wreck.
BC Ambulance, we have lost trust in a system that we felt was working. We were under the impression it was working because we had not tested it before. I’m certain hundreds of calls happen where the dispatch is seamless but, in our case, it wasn’t and that terrified us.
I spoke with Kamloops dispatch and they did admit a ball was dropped and a mistake occurred. They were very empathetic and took responsibility, and gave us the contact information to follow up with an independent investigation.
We all realize a system reliant on human beings will, at some point, have a human error. We just never consider we will bear witness to the error.
Where do we go from here? How do we go about our lives with that reoccurring thought, “what happens next time?”