The West Coast’s community paramedicine program has been a literal lifesaver since its arrival in 2015.
It, along with his heroically quick-thinking-wife, is the reason Martin Green can lift his young grandson again.
Green, a retired Ucluelet resident, suffered a heart attack at his home on July 2 last year.
“My wife Janice was with me. It was around lunchtime. I basically passed right out and my wife started CPR on me while she called 911,” Green told the Westerly News. “We had just had a bite to eat for lunch. I guess I got up off the stool in the kitchen and went down on my knees and then flat on my face.”
Recalling a First Aid course she had taken roughly a decade prior, Janice immediately began CPR and called 911.
“Something just kicks in…People have asked me how long did it take; everything is in slow motion, you don’t really look at the clock, you’re just in the situation,” she said. “When an emergency is on you, you just act. You just do what you can…You react. It was just a reaction, I don’t know how I kept it all together…I’m really fortunate that the paramedics arrived when they did because I was getting nervous. I wasn’t sure what I was doing but, as soon as they arrived, I knew he was in good hands.”
Paramedic Rachelle Cole was the first to arrive at the scene around 1 p.m.
She told the Westerly News she was on a community paramedicine shift, delivering lunches about two blocks away from the Green’s home when the call came in from the dispatcher. Already in uniform and with her paramedic gear in her vehicle, including an AED—automated external defibrillator—that would save Green’s life, Cole raced to the scene.
“When I came in, [Janice] was giving compressions and I just got the AED on right away and took over compressions,” she said.
She said she knew two paramedics were on duty at the ambulance station and knew they’d be arriving soon after her.
“When I was pulling up I already know that they’re going to be there soon so I knew I was not going to be by myself for long,” she said. “I do what we’re trained to do, get the AED on get on the chest…I was doing the compressions and heard the sirens.”
She stood down when crew members from Ucluelet’s BC Ambulance and Volunteer Fire Brigade showed up.
She said Martin wasn’t breathing on his own when he was loaded into the ambulance, but was in better condition than she expected as his heart was beating and blood was circulating to his limbs.
“It was my first cardiac success ever…It’s really rare that all the stars align like that and that you have enough hands on scene,” she said. “He is home, he has zero deficits, he has an implant that will stop the same heart issue from happening again and all’s well that ends well.”
Martin was taken to Victoria’s Jubilee hospital. He left the hospital on July 17 and arrived back in Ucluelet the following day and went searching for Cole to thank her.
“If I could, I’d give her a big hug. Thank you so much for me still being here. Words are hard to describe how I feel, it’s amazing,” he said. “It goes without saying that it’s imperative that we have people like that…They did an amazing job. I wouldn’t be here without them. My wife Janice is my heroine, along with Rachelle and the other four people that showed up.”
Janice echoed appreciation for the first responders.
“They’re my hometown heroes,” Janice said. “I’m extremely grateful. I can’t say enough. It makes us feel more comfortable here knowing that we do have emergency services that kick in right away, there’s no delay, they’re there. I’m extremely thankful.”
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Ucluelet’s fire chief Rick Geddes also responded to the call and is a member of the district’s community paramedicine team.
He said the program is largely focused on rural and remote communities, like Tofino and Ucluelet
“It’s mainly geared to smaller towns where they don’t really have the services that they do in a bigger city such as Port Alberni or Nanaimo…It provides a fully-licensed, trained paramedic to be available in small towns where they normally wouldn’t be during the day,” he said. “That is great because rather than just having paramedics at home, on call, now you often will have a lot quicker response because there’s already one out in the community working.”
He noted Cole’s quick response to Martin’s distress call saved vital minutes.
“In this case, it brought a lot quicker response that you probably would have gotten without a community paramedic. That’s the big thing, you already have somebody out and about that has most of the gear an ambulance does,” he said. “In the case of cardiac arrest, time is the biggest factor that you have against you because every minute or so that CPR and AED is delayed is about a 10 per cent reduction in a patient’s chance of survival. Basically after 10 minutes, if your heart is stopped and nobody’s done anything, you’re probably not going to come back. The quicker we can get on the chest, the better chance for recovery.”
The Tofino and Ucluelet community paramedicine program was launched as a provincial pilot program in 2015 that proved successful enough to begin spreading throughout B.C. in 2016 with the final phase of implementation wrapping up in 2018.
Along with the boost in time-efficiency that comes with having a paramedic on patrol in the community, Cole said the program also gives Ucluelet’s paramedics and firefighters an opportunity to provide training and workshops to residents, bringing them up to speed on hands-only CPR and how to apply CPR to children and infants.
“If you ever get an opportunity to help a neighbour, or you’re walking by a restaurant and something bad is happening, there are key things you can do to help out,” she said. “The hands only CPR is the same CPR we’ve been learning for decades and decades, except all it is is chest compressions now…It’s way more effective and way less daunting for people.”
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“We’re supposed to keep people safe, happy and healthy in our communities, that’s the role of community paramedicine,” she said. “We should use the resources that we have and that’s what we’re here for.”
She added that Ucluelet’s police, firefighters and paramedics all share a successfully collaborative relationship.
“We’re fortunate enough that we are in the size of a community that’s big enough to have all of these services and small enough to be able to work together so closely,” she said.