Ambulance, Paramedics, Fire Department…oh my!

(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?”



1, 2, 3…..LAUNCH!

Major Tom to Ground Control……we have a launch!

(my speech from the book launch – thank everyone for coming and sharing in my special day)

I would like to thank everyone for coming tonight. Family, friends, media and dare I say it out loud, “Fans”.

A couple of weeks ago, I admitted to friends on my Facebook page that I had been experiencing a reoccurring dream that was freaking me out. In my dream…or rather…my nightmare, I was pregnant. OH MY GOODNESS!!!!!

In my dream no one seemed very shocked about it except me and I woke each morning in a panic thinking, “Is isn’t possible….is it?” I am fairly certain that any leftover eggs I could produce would resemble a fuzzy peach candy and between the intense heat of the hot flashes I have experienced lately, they would be scorched and dehydrated like an old raisin. So I asked my friends about what it meant and they responded en masse with the suggestion that dreaming about being pregnant meant that I was about to birth a project.

Apparently dreaming about being pregnant was something that creatives tend to dream. What? I’m a creative? My friend Karen said something to the effect of, “Of course you are a creative – you wrote a book!”.

Honestly that is what it feels like to write a book. It is like you are giving birth to a baby and you are hoping that you don’t have an ugly one. You know what I mean…..those babies where people say, “Oh…your baby is so handsome” which is code for your baby is uuuuuugly because no one calls a baby handsome. They are cute, they are adorable, but if they look like a cabbage patch then they are “handsome”. A book is like that too! If someone reads your book and says, “It was nicely laid out”, you know you bombed because they were grasping at something nice to say to you without hurting your feelings.

I could say that I don’t care, but I would be lying. I do care what people think and I hope that I didn’t birth a cabbage patch baby. Regardless, I am this kids mother so ugly or not – I LOVE IT. I love the colour of it’s cover, the way it is so shiny and smooth. I love the original artwork that Catherine Ruddell created and I love the way Karen Thierson brought it all together with her amazing graphic design. I am in love with Naked Tuesday and it will always be my first born….sorry Amy….I mean my first book.

I want to share this moment with my mom, to whom I have dedicated this book. Her love, her support, her sarcasm, her sense of humor…..basically her DNA has made this book possible. Thank you mom.

I also want to share this moment with my husband Bob, an unwitting foil who doesn’t seem to fully understand how integral he is to my writing.

I also want to say thank you to each and every one of you who have stopped me in a grocery store or sent me a message and said, “hey Judy….I really liked your column this week” or “I can totally relate to what you are saying” because that validates what I do. I want to write something that is relatable. I want to write something that makes you laugh or makes your cry. Your support has given me the confidence to write Naked Tuesday and to realize that 50 is really fabulous and I am just getting started!

Thank you so much for being here tonight.

A Date with Aurora

%22The sky can dance for all of us – we simply need to allow it to happen%22.

What happens when an adventurous Miami medical student taps “Best places to watch Northern Lights in British Columbia” into the Google search engine on her laptop? Well……many blogs and websites and tourism links pop up, but in this young woman’s story, the location name that caught her interest was Dawson Creek.

Meet Amanda Barnes: a 27-year old Miami medical student who is soon to be finished school and focusing on her OB/GYN specialty. I met Amanda at the Dawson Creek airport as she checked in for her Hawkair flight to Vancouver and she was more than happy to share her unique experience of traveling over 4000 miles (approximately 6400 km) to see something that many of us take for granted: the Aurora Borealis.

Why Dawson Creek? It was simple, when she saw that Dawson Creek was listed as a location where the Northern Lights can be visible, she discovered that there were flights from Vancouver. Vancouver was going to be her first pit stop in Canadian adventure so it worked perfectly!

“Oh, so you have friends in Vancouver?” I asked.

“Yes…I mean no…I mean yes” she said with a laugh. “I did not know anyone in Vancouver when I arrived, but I did know a Torontonian who I called and asked if she knew anyone in Vancouver that I could meet up with”.

At this point I might have snorted with laughter because Toronto is a long way from Vancouver and I know we Canadians are friendly but we don’t automatically know everyone and that was funny.

Surprise, surprise! Her Torontonian friend DID have friends in Vancouver and of course she would introduce them to each other via long distance.

Now my interest was fully piqued and I leaned against the counter to get comfortable for what was promising to be a very cool story.

Amanda flew from Miami to Seattle where she boarded a train to Vancouver. I can imagine that the lush greenery of the Pacific Northwest mentally juxtaposed with the sand and surf of Miami in her minds eye would be mind-boggling.

This intrepid young woman spent a few days in Vancouver and did indeed meet up with her friend of a friend and subsequently fell in love with Canada.

On December 31st, Amanda boarded her Hawkair flight to Dawson Creek in search of the natural wonder Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) also known as “Dawn of the North”.

There was no guarantee that the sky would dance for her during her stay in Northern British Columbia. As she told her story I realized that it was her infectious joie de vivre and optimism (combined with a wee bit of adorable naiveté), which prevented her from thinking about the real possibility that her journey might be for naught.

Dance Aurora! Dance!

And they did dance for Amanda: a command performance.

The northern cheek of the heavens,
By a sudden glory kissed,
Blushed to the tint of roses,
And hid in an amber mist,
And through the northern pathway,
Trailing her robe of flame,
The queenly Borealis
In her dazzling beauty came!
(excerpt from the poem Aurora Borealis by May Riley Smith)

Driving 10 minutes from town, the Miami student was thrilled by the epic wonder of the aurora as the waves of light magically moved across our northern sky.

Amanda showed me some of the photo’s she managed to capture on her iphone and indeed they were spectacular.

Amanda Barnes proudly showing one of the many photos she snapped of our Northern Lights in Dawson Creek

“I want to move here” she said with a giggle.

“Please do…..we need doctors here” and I laughed and then said more seriously, “No….really we DO need doctors here”.

After Amanda boarded her flight of the first leg of a long journey home I began to reflect.

What an amazing young woman, so full of enthusiasm for life. Willing to take a giant step into the unknown and revel in the wonder of what she encounters and experiences during her journey.

We should all resolve to be like Amanda – wide-eyed and optimistic, manifesting goodness and gratitude.

The sky can dance for all of us – we simply need to allow it to happen.

Happy New Year 2016 – Love Judy


The Real Housewives of Northeastern B.C.

%22I'm a sucker for a man in uniform%22

I am a sucker for a man in uniform.

In fact many women in Northeastern British Columbia fall for men in uniform…..just not the traditional uniform. No, we fall for those clad in bright blue and yellow, high visibility, flame-retardant Nomex coveralls with the gentle scent of condensate clinging to the material.

We are “Oil-Field wives”, although, in order to be truly accurate, we should be called, “Energy-Sector wives”.

There are no epaulettes or highly polished footwear on these individuals in uniform….instead you will find PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) consisting of coveralls, hardhats, steel toed boots (oftentimes caked in mud), clear safety glasses and gloves. Hearing protection dangles from plastic strings and when not in use, rests against the white embroidered name badge that has been picked with a seam ripper to shorten the name. Richard becomes Rich, Robert becomes Rob, Matthew becomes Matt.

Although not in the military, our hubbies and partners respond to emergencies and callouts in military fashion. A phone conversation from the alarm service is barely completed when the feet hit the bedside floor and they are making their way to work at 2:00 or 3:00 a.m.

It doesn’t matter if it has snowed all night and the ice fog is so thick from cold that you can barely see the highway. It doesn’t matter that the thermometer is reading -40° and the truck tires have temporarily become square, these men and women get up and go to work. Thunk, thunk, thunk as they drive away.

Sometimes we wake up as they leave and say groggily, “See Ya” and then roll over in our warm beds and go back to sleep: A bit of guilt knowing that we will get a full 8 hours of sleep whereas our partner will make do with 5 or 6 hours or even less.

Some mornings we wake up and the other side of the bed is empty and cold and we know that it has been hours since someone has been there: slipping out quietly in the night to head to work taking care not to wake us.

We wonder if they grabbed their lunch or had a chance to make a pot of coffee before they left. Chances are, they queued up at Tim Horton’s with a steady stream of other sleep-deprived workers, each grabbing a Double-Double and a breakfast sandwich. It will be a long day with no time to pack a lunch.

I always wonder why there are some folks who insist on identifying those clad in the blue and yellow covvies (coveralls) as “rig pigs” or “oilfield trash”.

My husband and my son are not trash. My friend and neighbor is not a “rig pig”. My father wasn’t trash or a “rig pig”.

Many of these men and women (yes, there are more and more women all the time entering the energy sector) are hard working, intelligent individuals who can project manage and trouble shoot like a NASA scientist. Don’t laugh……have you seen what they do? Let’s just say that my inability to read a tape measure would be the least of my problems.

For most contractors, a sick day is something unheard of. While employees in other job sectors are taking the day off because of a nagging sore throat, an Oilfield contractor is working through the pain.

As the leaves begin to turn, I think of the long winter ahead and how difficult it can be at times. I remember the early years when our family was separated by camp life: 8 days on and 6 days off, two weeks in and two weeks out.

Although the separation could be difficult at times, especially raising a young family, I believe I became a better person because I was left alone and had to make decisions on my own. I learned not to panic and to trust my instincts. I made a few bad decisions, but I also made a lot of great decisions and my husband was the first one to congratulate me when he returned from work.

So cheers to our energy sector men and women in uniform! Thank you for all that you do! We appreciate your hard work. It puts gas in our vehicles and heat in our homes and food on the table. Stay Safe.