Lifesavers reunite with young Okanagan patient after horrific accident
“July 23, 2016 is a day that many of us in this room we will never forget,” Glenn Braithwaite with the B.C. Ambulance Service said. “I have thought long and hard for words to describe how I felt that day and every day since: intense, challenging, unbelievable.”
Braithwaite was one of the first on the scene of the freak accident on Apex Mountain near Penticton in July, 2016. Fifteen-year-old Marissa Lemioer was riding an ATV when the machine hit a bump and she was impaled by a log.
“I was scared when I arrived, my daughter would be dead. And to see her with a log in her stomach was probably the most awful day of my life,” Marissa’s mom Anne Lemioer said.
The accident launched a major rescue operation to get the critically injured girl off the mountain and to a hospital. It involved a variety of different groups including Eclipse Helicopters, Penticton Search and Rescue, the B.C. Ambulance Service and both Penticton Regional Hospital and Kelowna General Hospital where the young patient eventually ended up.
“She was very close to death,” Dr. Mike Ertel, who was the trauma doctor on duty that night, said. “The tree entered her rib cage and missed her heart by 3 cm.”
The log went through the girl’s abdomen and out her armpit. She sustained a number of serious injuries including multiple rib fractures, a collapsed lung, a ruptured diaphragm and stomach. She also lost a lot of blood.
“For her to be here today is quite frankly a miracle,” Dr. Ertel said.
On Thursday, all of the people involved in saving Lemioer’s life came together for an emotional reunion. The event was organized by the Kelowna General Hospital Foundation to show the immense teamwork that goes into saving lives.
“This is one of the most significant responses I have been on,” Braithwaite said. “Everybody had to have their ‘A game’ and everyone brought their ‘A game’ and everyone was ready and prepared.”
Penticton Search and Rescue, which is made up of volunteers, played an instrumental role in the rescue mission.
“We had to stabilize her body and the log to cut her free from the terrain vehicle, then move her to our ARP (Aerial Response Platform) to transport her,” Penticton Search and Rescue volunteer Hamish Reidie said. “We realized once we placed her in the ARP, we were going to make a second cut of the log because it was extruding out the back of her body and we were unable to close the ARP to transport her.”
Both Marissa and her mom were in attendance Thursday to thank all of the people involved for saving Marissa’s life.
“I’ll never forget these people,” a very emotional Lemioer said. “I can’t ever think of how to repay them for it. Marissa is my baby, I’m very thankful everything went the way it did. If it didn’t, I don’t know how I would be reacting today. So, this makes me very happy to be here and see these people.”
Her feeling was echoed by the first responders and medical staff.
“It’s so nice to get together,” Dr. Ertel said. “The search and rescue teams and ambulance paramedics, in my opinion, saved her life. And just to thank them, I never had an opportunity. So it’s so nice of the KGH Foundation to get us together. And to see Marissa and her mom is so gratifying.”
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