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Three minutes to help save a life

Today, BC Emergency Health Services, Michelle Stilwell, MLA for Parksville-Qualicum, and members of the Parksville community recognized bystanders Rick Ehlers, Rod Gourlay and Christina Harringa with a Vital Link Award for helping paramedics save a life.
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Gary Shaw, 72, was riding his bike when he suddenly fell to the ground in cardiac arrest. Immediately, bystanders jumped into action: calling 9-1-1, checking for a pulse, and beginning cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) until paramedics arrived three minutes later. Shaw is now fully recovered and is getting a chance to thank his rescuers at the Parksville Ambulance Station opening.  ​

“The quick assistance by Rick, Rod and Christina to call 911 and perform CPR undoubtedly provided Gary with the best chance of survival and helped paramedics save a life,” said Michelle Stilwell, MLA for Parksville-Qualicum. “Their actions speak to not only the importance of bystander CPR, but also to their character, to get involved without hesitation when they saw someone in need.” 

Ehlers and Gourlay were golfing when they witnessed Shaw collapse and rushed over. Ehlers checked for a pulse and began CPR while Gourlay called 9-1-1. Harringa, who was walking her dog at the time, monitored the patient’s airway. 

“There’s a sense of relief when you see that bystanders are on the phone with the dispatcher, listening to their instructions and trying to help us save a patient,” said Parksville ambulance station unit chief, Robbie Jai, who was the first paramedic on the scene, along with his partner, paramedic Sandy Ranger. “It gives the patient a greater chance of survival and makes our job a bit easier.” 

Ehlers said he was worried about hurting Shaw with his vigorous chest compressions, but was relieved when the paramedics quickly arrived and administered even more vigorous chest compressions and used an automated external defibrillator (AED) to shock Shaw’s heart. 

“My advice to others is to not be afraid to get involved,” Ehlers said. “This award is great but the real reward is knowing that we helped save a life.” 

“I don’t remember anything,” Shaw said. “But to hear how all these people helped me, it’s just very overwhelming. I’m so grateful.” 

In 2015/2016, BC Emergency Health Services responded to 5,793 suspected cardiac arrests. Without immediate help, a victim of sudden cardiac arrest will suffer brain damage within three minutes. After 12 minutes, survival is unlikely. Evidence shows that when CPR and AEDs are used together in the first few minutes during a sudden cardiac arrest, survival rates can be doubled. 

The Vital Link Award is presented to bystanders who are involved in helping BC Ambulance Service paramedics and dispatchers save a life through successful CPR efforts. The award recognizes the life-saving role bystanders can play in a medical emergency and aims to raise awareness of the importance of bystander CPR. 

About BCEHS​: BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) is responsible for the delivery and governance of pre-hospital emergency medical care and inter-facility patient transfer services through the BC Ambulance Service and the BC Patient Transfer Network. BCEHS is supported by the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA).​

BCEHS; recognition; award; BC Ambulance Service
 
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