Paramedic Community Mourns the Loss of Two of its Own

Paramedic Community

At around 4:20 am on Tuesday, a BC Ambulance crew transferred a patient from Tofino to the West Coast General Hospital in Port Alberni, and started their return trip along the winding Pacific Rim Highway. They were almost home when their ambulance left the road and plunged down a 60-metre embankment into Kennedy Lake.

The BC Ambulance Service reported Jo-Ann Fuller and Ivan Polivka, their two paramedics with more than 35 years of service between them, missing to the Port Alberni RCMP later that morning. Shortly afterwards a highway worker discovered the path the vehicle had taken as it veered off the road, which led to discovery of the ambulance submerged under nine metres of water. By the afternoon, with the search along the lakeshore proving fruitless, RCMP divers found the bodies of the two paramedics inside the rig.

Paramedic Community

Paramedics normally save lives. For two of them to lose theirs in the line of duty is a loss keenly felt in the paramedic community and throughout the communities of Vancouver Island, but most of all by the families and friends of those who died. Our condolences and prayers go out to the Fuller and Polivka families as they struggle through this dark and difficult time. We hope they can come to grips with the melancholy pride that goes with losing a loved one who died in service of others.

Our thoughts too are with the hundreds of men and women, from the oil fields of Northern BC to downtown Vancouver, who continue to respond to medical emergencies at all hours of the day and night travelling routes that are alternately icy, winding and isolated.

Stay safe, folks.

AED Programs – Maybe the Lawyers aren’t the Problem?

AED ProgramsAmong the activities we do here at Iridia is the selling of AED’s and the maintaining of defibrillation programs. From time to time, we review some of the common hurdles we run into when we try to set up someone with a new defibrillator.  One of those obstacles is the fear that AED programs increase a company’s exposure to legal liability, so to help with this I did some research and went looking for concrete arguments against carrying defibrillators to examine and refute.

What I found instead was a lot of vague rhetoric of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. Oddly enough, a great deal of the FUD surrounding defibrillation programs seems to come from the place where you’d expect to find more substantive advice: corporate legal teams. In the process, I also got a chance to read the waters of the corporate world with regards to altruism.

And, folks, the waters are troubled. Here’s one example.

AED programs

The American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA), a US lobbyist group for hotel owners, issued a legal briefing on the ramifications of adopting AED programs. Their advice? Avoid carrying them because hotels that do could be sued for failing to have enough units, putting them in the right places, replacing batteries, maintaining them properly, or training their staff. “This type of exposure is known as the ‘no good deed goes unpunished’ exposure, “the group’s lawyers told its members, “None of those arguments could be made if you had no AED at all.”

First off, this argument is full of holes and the lawyers know that. Or they should, and what they don’t know they could have found out with one phone call. I’ll save that issue for another post except to say this: of the over 350 000 people who die every year from sudden cardiac arrest, of the thousands of AED’s currently deployed throughout North America, no one who applied an AED to help a cardiac arrest victim has ever been sued for it and no patient has ever been unnecessarily shocked with an AED.

What I wanted to look at was this notion that the performance of good deeds somehow leads to a kind of undeserved hardship.

For starters, the AHLA lawyers are right as far as immediate corporate concerns go. AED’s cost money and most businesses are not required by law to carry them. But here’s the thing: people don’t serve the corporations. It’s the other way around. That’s why we invented them. Corporations are beholden only to themselves. Human beings are beholden to one another. Sure, you can try to rationalize the lobbyists’ stance from a liability and legal standpoint, but when there is a cardiac incident, a reckoning will follow. A board of directors may run a corporation; an employer may direct his staff. But even when under the authority of others, our actions belong only to us. Whether it’s with whatever god you believe in, the widow of a dead cardiac arrest victim, or yourself in the bathroom mirror, the eyes that stare back will never accept “I was told not to,” as an excuse for inaction.

A number of corporations will, it appears, need to be dragged into the world of public access early defibrillation. But not all of them, and the pulling won’t be by us at Iridia (at least not entirely).

AED ProgramsAs I researched, I found that people, executives included, want the AED’s. Even if the corporation as a whole sometimes does not. As I spoke with individuals, as I browsed the internet forums and blogs, I kept finding people who think having them is a good idea. I keep finding people who dread thought of someone dying at their workplace and not being able to help. The truth is that your work is not finished when you finalize an AED program. There is a catch: you will have to replace the batteries, maintain your plan and train your staff not because you might be sued, but because your commitment to having an AED will require it. Then one day you may have to use what you’ve prepared. And that action will belong to you too. None of this is a punishment as the AHLA lawyers might have you think. That’s your reward. It’s the underlying truth about any good deed. It leads to another, harder, and better one. But only if you can be strong enough, only if you can stand it.