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The tale of paramedics and a violin bow

It wasn’t the first time paramedics had been to this home. They reckon they respond to the independent seniors home in Victoria about once a week for medical emergencies.
Wally with BCEHS paramedics, from left, student paramedic Vihn Pham, paramedic Daron McDonald and paramedic Gavin Aimoe
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​Wally with BCEHS paramedics, from left, student paramedic Vihn Pham, paramedic Daron McDonald and paramedic Gavin Aimoe

But it was the first time Wally needed help. The senior had fallen from a chair while trying to reach his violin bow.

Paramedic Daron McDonald, his partner Gavin Aimoe and a paramedic student attended the call. “Wally turned out to be this amazing human being,” McDonald says, “Luckily, he didn’t have any serious injury from the fall.”

Wally Firth with his violin and new bow at his independent living home in VictoriaWhen the paramedics asked how he fell, Wally explained about reaching for the bow which led to more conversation and Wally playing the violin for the paramedics. He kept apologizing after every song, saying he was sorry he couldn’t play to his ability because of the quality of his bow, says McDonald.

The whole experience stuck with the paramedics. McDonald explains it well: “We are in these care homes all the time. With COVID the residents we see are not able to get out, often locked down in their rooms, without visitors. In our job we see so many of these people without connections.”
“Wally’s life really resonated with us.”

In conversation McDonald learned Wally Firth spent many years as an MP from the Northwest Territories; the first Indigenous politician to win a seat in the House of Commons. He also flew planes, was a flying instructor, broadcaster and fur trader.

As he thought about Wally’s life, McDonald figured he might be able to give something back. McDonald posted from his personal Facebook account asking if anyone had a quality horsehair violin bow. A few days later he got a message from someone he didn’t know asking ‘Is this request for Wally Firth?’ 

It was a strange response given McDonald had not included any details in his post, respecting the privacy of his patient.

The person reaching out was David Symons, an education representative at Long and McQuade Musical Instruments in Victoria. Symons first met Wally about 12 years ago when he was buying several musical instruments to send up North to students who couldn’t afford them. Wally had also donated his guitar collection to Long and McQuade for their student music program. Of course, Long and McQuade would donate a bow to Wally.

“You wouldn’t believe it. It was night and day his playing with that new bow,” says McDonald. Wally played for the whole facility. “He was amazing. I could have listened for hours.”

McDonald says it was an amazing opportunity to have this connection with Wally and a reminder there are so many stories behind the medical emergencies that bring paramedics to a patient.
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