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Paramedics in the Park marks tenth anniversary, honours citizens
From L to R: Dave Kilner, Don Farrow, John Morrow and Christine Buchanan, John Spooner.

Paramedics in the Park marks tenth anniversary, honours citizens

in Around Town/Community/Health by

May 31 marks the tenth anniversary of “Paramedics in the Park,” which began as a way to educate the public about City of Kawartha Lakes Paramedics and their partners at the police and fire departments.

According to Deputy Chief of Paramedics, Derek Brown, “It was an opportunity to let the public see our equipment and meet some paramedics when they weren’t in an emergency.”

“For years we had been meeting students in their classrooms but we felt it was a great opportunity to invite the children to come to Victoria Park, experience some fun in the outdoors towards the end of the school year, and really get to interact with us.”

This year visitors – school aged or older – will experience education stations on CPR, what to expect when you call 911, severe allergies and Epi Pens, and basic wound dressing. There will also be a barbecue provided by Boston Pizza of Lindsay, with all proceeds from the lunch donated to the Paramedic Ride in support of the National Paramedic Memorial Foundation.

The City of Kawartha Lakes is served by 20 full-time Primary Care Paramedics and 20 full-time Advanced Care Paramedics. These staff are supported by an additional 40 part-time paramedics and a Logistics Technician. With approximately 3,059 square kilometres of territory to cover, it is no surprise that paramedics cannot be at every call immediately. Occasionally, citizens become the first first responders, and the City of Kawartha Lakes Paramedic Department makes a point of honouring these people.

As Brown explains, “Over the years we, along with other agencies, have acknowledged members of the public who went above and beyond to assist when a true life-threatening situation was happening. The ceremony at Paramedics in the Park has become our opportunity to tell a couple of very positive stories with successful outcomes where citizens have performed CPR, and the patient survived. It’s an opportunity to encourage people to learn the skill and see that there are real life examples of how someone’s life can be saved.”

This year, the honourees are John Spooner, Don Farrow and Dave Kilner, and Christine Buchanan.

In March of this year, the three men played key roles as a situation unfolded at the Bobcaygeon Arena that could happen in many Canadian hockey rinks. During a 60-years-and-up recreational hockey league game, Jim McAlister — a retired Pickering firefighter, and one-time International Hockey League player — skated off the ice saying he felt tired and dizzy. Teammate Don Farrow standing next to him on the bench, noted he was sweating profusely and asked if he should call 911. Within seconds, McAlister collapsed on the bench. His heart had stopped, not due to heart disease, but an electrical problem.

Other players rushed to his aid, and after struggling to flip the 220-pound man onto his back in the tight space between the boards and the bench, Don Farrow and John Spooner initiated CPR. With first aid underway, a player from the other team — Dave Kilner, who had previous training in the operation of automated external defibrillators (AEDs) — rushed to retrieve the rink’s defibrillator. As soon as he opened the case, a 911 call was made.

With the AED resting on the dasher board, the pads were applied but McAlister still did not respond. The machine reloaded, and Kilner — following the audible instructions coming from the unit — shocked him a second time. Since he was now turning a blue/purple colour, Farrow began mouth to mouth resuscitation while Spooner continued chest compressions.

Minutes later, with normal colour returning to McAlister’s face, and movement in his eyes, the team effort was successful. McAlister began breathing on his own and when an ambulance arrived shortly thereafter he was transported to hospital. His Kingston-based cardiologist said things would have been far different for McAlister had his fellow players not acted as rapidly as they did.

Farrow is quick to point out that this really was a team effort. While he, Spooner, and Kilner, are getting the most recognition, he notes that others helped in less obvious ways, from making the 911 call, to directing first responders to the location, to notifying McAlister’s wife.

Farrow received CPR instruction when he worked at General Motors, but John Spooner didn’t have to go that far for his CPR training. His wife was a nurse and she was well aware that it was only a matter of time before something like this occurred at the arena. She taught her husband how to perform CPR, and would regularly test his knowledge at home. For his part, Kilner had been trained on the earliest AED devices, also for his work.

This was indeed fortunate combination of events since, in this case, the man in the rink with the most life-saving training was the one who actually needed his life saved. Interestingly, McAlister himself had been honoured three times for his own life-saving actions during his 31-year firefighting career.

Christine Buchanan will be recognized for action she took last November, which the Red Cross designates as CPR month.

John Morrow was at his Fenelon Falls-area home, and experienced chest pain and shortness of breath. His wife, Linda, was at work, so the 79-year old Morrow phoned her to drive him to the hospital. Before she could make the 5-minute trip back to their house, he collapsed at the end of their driveway from a heart attack. The emergency call was made, and a neighbour on the scene started chest compressions with the help of a 911operator, but Morrow was unresponsive. At that moment, Buchanan drove past the driveway on her way to pick up a passenger in her capacity as a Community Care volunteer driver.

“I saw a small group of people at the end of the driveway as I approached the scene and that just looked odd. When I looked more closely I saw someone’s feet…not standing. So that really caught my eye,” says Buchanan. Recognizing the severity of the situation, she parked on the shoulder and after asking if they needed assistance, took over the resuscitation efforts.

Buchanan recalled Morrow’s eyes had turned a brilliant blue colour, and his skin had the same purple tone described by Jim McAlister’s team of resuscitators. After a few minutes of chest compressions, Morrow drew a breath, but only one before falling silent and still again. Encouraged, Buchanan continued CPR and within minutes, brought him back to life. He was taking laboured breaths as an ambulance arrived. Paramedics applied a defibrillator while Buchanan kept administering chest compressions, and Morrow had vital signs and was breathing on his own when loaded into the ambulance.

Having first received training through her then-employer 10 years ago, Buchanan was recertified in each of the following seven years. She has followed that up on her own dime in the ensuing years with CPR/AED and First Aid courses. Prior to this event, she had never put her training to the test, but she believes the comprehensive nature of the courses taught her to act decisively and with conviction.

“When I saw his skin tone I knew that something was really wrong. I asked if they needed my help, and the years of training just came to the surface,” says Buchanan.

CPR courses run year-round in the Lindsay area, offered by St. John’s Ambulance, the Red Cross, and private companies.

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Geoff Coleman lives in Fenelon Falls and has been a freelance writer since the time of the Commodore 64. When not fishing or spending time in his woodworking shop, he can usually be found behind a guitar.

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