Dec. 19, 2014, Port Severn, Ont. – The other day I paged out at 6:45 a.m. for a multi-vehicle collision (MVC), and got back to the hall at 7:50 a.m. I had to be at work for 8:30 a.m. I technically only had to walk across the parking lot to get to work, but I don’t think my boss would have appreciated me showing up in sweat pants, a hoody, my big winter boots and a toque. Although that is common attire for late-night or early-morning fire calls, I don’t think it is acceptable in the office.
The injuries to the lone occupant involved in the MVC were minor; lucky for him and a bonus for us because we were not there for long.
Once we put the med bag back in order and returned to the hall, I ran home (not literally ¬– I don’t run anywhere) in order to get ready for work. I managed to make it to work only 10 minutes late, which was great, but I definitely required a coffee to get my head in gear. I will admit that I was in a bit of a fog without my morning java. It’s a good thing I have patient co-workers.
That same day, I had to leave work early to get my hockey-playing daughter to the doctor’s office in order to be cleared to return to hockey following a slight concussion. My husband called as my daughter and I were returning from her appointment. Since I have Bluetooth in my car, my daughter and I both answered when the phone rang. We joked around and tried to talk at the same time. My husband cut us off by eagerly asked where we were, to which we both answered at the same time again. (We didn’t clue in right away to the serious tone in his voice.)
It turned out that a good friend and neighbour of ours ¬¬– who is a fellow firefighter’s wife – fell and had possibly broken her femur. Her husband (the firefighter) was home with her when it happened and knew right away that it was serious. He called 911 and requested fire with the ambulance so that he could get her onto a backboard because she was lying on the ground and he could not move her on his own.
My husband called our neighbour him at the same time that he was on the other line with 911. When he learned what had happened, my husband, who was about 20 minutes away, called me to see if I was closer. I was about seven minutes away and said I’d go straight there.
My phone rang right after I had hung up with my husband. It was the firefighter calling. “Are you bringing the rescue?” he asked me frantically.
“No, we haven’t gotten paged out, but I’m on my way in my car.”
“I need the rescue. I need the backboard. I can’t move her on my own. I asked for fire. Why haven’t they paged it out yet?”
“I’ll go to the hall and call it in myself. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
We arrived at the hall and my daughter and I ran in. When I tried to call the firefighter back to get his house number, the line was busy. My daughter was on her phone before I knew it, calling another neighbour to get the address. Smart kid I got there.
I radioed our dispatch. No answer. I keyed the mic to call them again and heard the tones go out as another firefighter ran into the hall. My husband had called him too, trying to find someone close to bring the truck.
When we pulled up on scene at our fellow firefighter’s house, we grabbed the backboard and ran over to him and his wife. I knelt down beside her and almost cried. That’s only ever happened to me when something has happened to one of my daughters. I am OK with medical calls, until it’s one of my kids or a loved one from my fire-service family. I quickly choked back the emotions and saw my fellow firefighter do the same. The three of us carefully positioned my neighbour’s wife and got the board underneath her.
Paramedics arrived not long after and took over patient care.
“Thanks for coming, guys,” the firefighter said as the paramedics loaded his wife into the ambulance. “It felt like forever.”
That was one of the hardest calls to which I have responded. It was bound to happen sooner or later since we live in such a small community. When it is one of your own you are helping, it really tugs at the heartstrings.
We offered to drive the firefighter’s vehicle to the hospital for him so that he could go with his wife in the ambulance. It was the least we could do. “Call us if you need anything at all,” we told him. He called later with an update and asked us if we could feed his dog because he didn’t know when he would get home.
“No problem,” I told him, and took my youngest daughter with me to feed the dog.
When we got there and let the dog outside, he walked right to the spot where his owner had been laying on the ground a couple of hours earlier. I told my daughter about it and we watched him sniff around the ground in that exact area. Then he sat down in the same spot, looked down the driveway, and waited.
Tell me that does not get you.
We are all in this together.
Jennifer Grigg has been a volunteer with the Township of Georgian Bay Fire Department in Ontario since 1997. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter at @georgianbayjen