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A grandmother’s gratitude: never too late for heartfelt thanks

A framed letter and some photos hang quietly in a hallway inside a Surrey ambulance station. But the story behind the plaque, about a near-drowning in 2000, also serves to remind us how every call a paramedic answers can have a life-changing impact.
Then-and-now photo of Jayden Arnold as small child and high school grad
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The framed letter was written and sent to the ambulance station by Linda Arnold, a retired nurse and grandmother. It’s accompanied by a heartfelt thank-you note and two “then and now” photos of her granddaughter Jayden Arnold – one when she was a little girl and the other in her high school graduation gown. The letter outlines how Jayden is graduating on the honour roll thanks to the efforts of the BC Ambulance Service paramedics who saved Jayden’s life in the summer of 2000. 

When Jayden was two years old, she was rescued from drowning in a backyard pool in Surrey. In the letter she wrote just over a year ago, Jayden’s grandmother writes: “Every day for the last fifteen years my day has started with a thought of gratitude to the paramedics, educators, and support staff that made it possible for that backyard drowning not to have been a family tragedy.” 

One of the paramedics who responded was Roy Stanley, who was working in Surrey at the time, with partner Derek Morris. They had a student paramedic from Hong Kong along with them in the ambulance. “It came as a surprise to me when the letter arrived at the Surrey station so many years after that rescue,” Roy said. “When it arrived, people were asking around if anyone remembered who’d responded to this call and thinking back, I realized it was the call Derek and I responded to.”

“It was a set of circumstances that seemed to align just right, in other words, luck was with us,” Roy remembers. “The girl’s mother got the two-year-old out of the pool, and a neighbour jumped the fence to start CPR. A nearby RCMP officer trained in pediatric CPR arrived very quickly, scooped her up and brought her to the front lawn. Derek and I arrived right after to help, as we were mere blocks away when the call came. Advanced care paramedics Dan Cameron and Don Jolley met us and took over to treat the patient and rush her to hospital.” 

Derek recalls, “The one thing that I vividly remember is the moment while doing CPR on Jayden, I checked for a pulse and thought “is that a heartbeat?” We were ventilating her and then she started making respiratory efforts on her own. As I handed her off to our two fantastic colleagues, I requested that they take my student with them, as he had never seen a pediatric resuscitation. Just weeks prior to this call I had another successful resuscitation of another two-year old that drowned in North Delta.  It is extremely rare to have a successful resuscitation of a drowning infant, so having two in as many months is a memory I will always cherish.”

“We don’t always get to find out how our patients fare once we’ve attended to them, but this letter brought it all rushing back,” Roy adds. As time passed, I’d remember we’d saved that little girl who ran into trouble in a backyard pool many years ago, and I pretty much thought that was the end of it, until this letter came. Now, it reminds me how important every single call is whenever I think about it.” 

Today, Linda is happy her letter serves as a reminder to paramedics that their skills and commitment are truly appreciated: “I’m pleased that the team that responded to that 911 call are able to see Jayden all grown up, due to their long hours of study and dedication to their profession,” she said from her home in Quesnel.

Jayden meanwhile has graduated high school and is at a cosmetology school, studying to become a hair stylist.  “I hope my story brings faith and joy to many paramedics and that they know the work they are doing truly does change many lives,” she said. “I’m so glad that we sent in that letter, to let them know how I’m doing after all these years. I can’t thank them enough for saving my life.”

Today, Roy’s an advanced care paramedic in Kelowna, Derek is stationed in Penticton, and Don is now Fire Chief in Pitt Meadows. They all say this event stays with them to this day. Derek keeps a copy of the letter and photos on his wall. “I am retiring soon, and having this memory makes all the difficult calls and long nightshifts during my career worthwhile.”

For an update on this story, see: Penticton teen reunites with paramedics that saved her life 17 years ago (Penticton Western News).
BC Ambulance Service; BCEHS; emergency response; local heroes; patient care; Kids; Patient story
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