Jan. 7, 2015, Port Severn, Ont. - The pager went off around 3:30 p.m. yesterday for a single-vehicle accident while I was working away at my desk. For the first time in as long as I can remember, I actually took the time to change my shoes before heading across the parking lot to the fire hall. I took off my heels and put on my thick socks and big winter boots, my parka, and my pink fire toque. It was way too cold out there to run across to the fire hall in heels or without a coat. Because of the time of day, I also grabbed my mitts and my purse so I wouldn’t have to go back to the office after the call.
With the wind howling and snow blowing in my face, it was an effort to hold my coat together and hang on to my pager, mitts and purse at the same time.
The fire prevention officer (FPO) and bylaw officer (who is also a firefighter) work in the fire hall and they had come down from their offices to meet me in the truck bays. We geared up and got in the rescue truck. After waiting for a couple of minutes, no one else showed up so we responded with three.
The highway was slick and the flurries had just started again. It was not long before we came across a couple of vehicles pulled over on the side of the highway, and the FPO radioed to dispatch to let them know we had arrived on scene.
I jumped out of the back of the rescue and approached a woman standing at the back of the vehicles. The woman, who was a passerby, advised me that the patient was still in her vehicle and that she had instructed her to remain in her seat and not move until help arrived. The driver, she said, had lost control, spun out and hit the guardrail. Fortunately, the car ended up on the side of the road and not in the ditch.
The paramedics arrived on scene as well so I gave them a quick update and assisted them with patient care. I got in the back seat of the car to do c-spine while the paramedics collared the woman and put a Kendrick Extrication Device (KED) on her before they removed her to a backboard and stretcher. While in the car with the patient, she apologized for troubling us. I told her not to worry, and that we were there to help. She went on to ask me if the woman that had stopped to help her was one of our people. I told her that I thought she was just a kind passerby and not a member of our fire department. The patient was very appreciative of the woman’s help and kindness.
Once we had packaged the patient, the paramedics asked her if there was someone they could contact for her. Her answer was: “Nope, there’s no one.” My heart sank. All I knew about the woman was where she was from, because I had heard her tell the paramedics; I did not even get her name, which I normally do, but had not in this case because the paramedics were already talking with her when I got in the car to help.
The patient was then loaded in the ambulance, and that was the last I saw of her. As I walked back to our truck, I stopped by the passerby in her car. She opened her door and I said, “I just wanted to let you know that the lady really appreciated you helping her and she had asked me if you were a member of our department because you were very good.” Her eyes welled up with tears and she put her a hand on her chest as said, “Oh my goodness. Thank you for telling me.”
I wish I could have done more for the patient, whose name I do not know. But at least her comments did not fall upon deaf ears and I was able to deliver the message to the person who deserved to hear it.
As first responders, we rarely hear about the people whose lives intersect with ours once a call is over. It is kind of sad, in a way, but that is not why we were there in the first place. Our role in all of this is not to provide the aftercare, or be involved in the follow up; our job is, as first response to the call, to provide the initial care, and do it with kindness and compassion.
Jennifer Grigg has been a volunteer with the Township of Georgian Bay Fire Department in Ontario since 1997. Email her at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter at @georgianbayjen