“It always amazes me how quick others are to help in an emergency. You truly see the best side of humanity in circumstances like this," says Kathleen Sullivan, nurse practitioner, BC Children's Hospital.
Read on for Kathleen's story and more stories featuring employees who rallied to help those affected by the rain storms.
On a dark and rainy evening on November 14, a family was returning from Kamloops, on their way home to Surrey. Between Hope and Agassiz on Highway 7, a mudslide pushed their car off the road. After the car flipped twice, a 14-year-old boy was badly injured. Kathleen Sullivan, a nurse practitioner from BC Children's Hospital on her way home from Vernon, was stopped just before the mudslide. Another mudslide a couple hundred feet behind had brought traffic to a standstill and trapped 275 people in. When she heard that the family had been brought up the embankment, she set off to help.
Kathleen was directed to the boy in the back seat of a truck and immediately started assessing his neurological status and then his other injuries. She suspected facial/skull fractures based on swelling, so she kept him upright and did her best to keep him calm. The boy was in an extraordinary amount of pain, especially his eyes. Kathleen called the ophthalmologist on call at BC Children's to see what she could do. Too swollen to examine, all she could do to preserve his vision was prevent him from rubbing his eyes. She gently tried to clean up several large lacerations and stop some of the bleeding, while keeping an eye on his neurological status. She also splinted a broken arm for his brother and assessed the minor injuries of the rest of the family.
Soon, a Hope Search and Rescue team arrived, evacuating the boys and their father over a mudslide to a waiting ambulance, which took them to physicians in Hope who treated the 14-year-old and arranged his transfer to B.C. Children's Hospital. The boy and his family are recovering at home.
“I've cared for many head trauma/motor vehicle accident patients over the years. However, always in a tertiary trauma centre, not stuck in between mudslides with nothing more than a well-stocked first aid kit," says Kathleen. Read more in this Vancouver Sun article.
“Working at Children's in high acuity environments helped me stay calm and focused, allowing me to prioritize care. It also allowed me to use a 'phone a friend' card (thanks optho on call!).” – Kathleen Sullivan
On November 16, the Fraser Canyon Hospital Lab was notified of a teenage hemophilia patient who was stranded in Hope due to road closures. This patient required lifesaving Factor VIII infusions every other day, or he wouldn't be able to stop bleeding if he had a cut, for example. The patient's family only packed enough product to last until November 16 as they expected to be back home by that evening. Not knowing when the highways would reopen, the lab was able to provide the Factor VIII product that was in stock in the Transfusion Medicine Laboratory, even though it was a different brand than what the patient was used to.
“When I issued the product to the patient's father and gave him a 'crash course' in preparing the product for his son, I could see the relief in his eyes as he now had an adequate stock of this lifesaving product," says Liz Soares, Site Supervisor, Fraser Canyon Hospital Lab. “He was more than grateful to all of us in the lab for helping his family in these extraordinary circumstances."
When Sharwan Maharaj, pharmacy technician with BC Cancer – Abbotsford, wasn't able to come to work because of flooding, he found himself at the Hope airport. His mission? Help a BC Cancer patient board a flight to get timely treatment. After meeting the patient, who was anxious given the unfolding crisis, he located the right helicopter for her – no easy task with many flights arriving and leaving – and made sure she got on board safely. He also provided hot drinks and food to people stranded in Hope, and housed a couple from Merritt, who had an 18-month-old daughter, for a week.
“Helping people is not only during the difficult times, but anytime," says Sharwan. “I believe it's very important and not just to our patients, but also to my community."
When the flooding started, all access to Chilliwack was cut for a time, so the BCEHS Logistics team in Chilliwack transitioned to Station 202 in Abbotsford and delivered supplies to all stations in the Fraser Valley, including Hope. The team from Station 240 in Burnaby picked up stock from the product distribution centre in Coquitlam and made the delivery to Carson Air, so that critical supplies could be flown to the Interior. Six emergency ambulances were also stocked and delivered to the Fraser Valley, Princeton and Penticton. The warehouse team was also busy fulfilling emergency orders across the province. And vehicle coordinators worked hard to keep the spare vehicle pool robust, so that cars could be lent to other regions experiencing shortfalls.
“We're here to solve problems and make the lives of our paramedics easier," says Andrew Chen, manager, Logistics. “It's a lot of hard work, but we're one big team and we're in this together."
BC Emergency Health Services' Danny Jones, Stephanie Buis and Andrew Robertson
During the first wave of the rain storm, team members of the COVID-19 Rapid Response team leapt into action to support community organizations bringing essential supplies and food to those affected by flooding and mudslides. Staff partnered with the Ross St. Sikh Temple, which prepared 2,000 meals for evacuated families at the Tradex Centre in Chilliwack, and have been supporting volunteers to get essential supplies to communities like Princeton.
Building on this amazing work, the COVID-19 Rapid Response Team and Chee Mamuk
launched "A Palach Tum Tum Holiday" (A Giving Heart Holiday) to collect supplies like toys, non-perishable food, and clothing for Holiday Hampers until December 17, which will be transported by the West Coast Pilot Club to affected communities. Their hope is to reach Indigenous communities cut-off from receiving supplies by road.
“Working for PHSA, our mission is to ultimately serve the public. Although our role is primarily to provide excellent health care services, supporting those in need by donating essential supplies and food epitomizes the spirit of this organization," says Mahtab Gill, Contact Tracing Assistant, and the Chee Mamuk Team. “Gifting is central to our way of being, how we share our resources and show respect and support for one another."