Excessive drinking results in a needless emergency response

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On Dec. 22, EMS received a call through 911 to respond west of Swift Current to, as of then, an unknown problem.

While en route it was determined that the "victim" was of a critical status and we were informed that STARS were accepting the mission. Approximately 12 minutes after receiving the call we arrived on scene to find a vehicle had run into the ditch. On scene was a passerby who had seen the vehicle was running, and drove to the next approach, parked, and walked to the vehicle to check out the occupant. Finding that he appeared unconscious, he then called 911.

When we approached the occupant of the vehicle, he appeared unconscious, was not responding to what we call "painful stimuli". After a minute or so the occupant began to moan, then began answering questions.

The occupant admitted to drinking in excess. He was removed to the ambulance, further assessed, and found to have no further obvious injuries or illness that contributed to the operator driving off the highway. The RCMP took the individual into custody. End of story?

Well, no it's not. Such a simple and easy call to respond to, manage, and close out turns to be a deep moral and ethical lesson.

First, what possesses people to continue to drink in excess, then get behind the wheel of a 3000 pound vehicle and take a chance that has ruined so many lives? I once heard a very intelligent speaker at an emergency planning seminar state, "We have reached those that will listen to the Don't Drink and Drive campaigns, and now we must realize that we will always have a segment of individuals in our society who defy the law, who defy the rights of others, to drive without the fear of being maimed or killed by that drunk driver."

The second dilemma, we see a vehicle in the ditch, with the wind chill it was equivalent to -41 Celsius. Do we stop or just keep driving and say "I'm in a hurry" or "Someone else will stop". Or we call 911 without stopping and say "there's a vehicle in the ditch" or "a vehicle has rolled and I'm driving by." 911 is obligated to call emergency response agencies to respond to the scene. We often arrive to either find no one in the vehicle or respond to a scene after a patient has been treated and taken to hospital and the crash occurred the day before, and it is even marked with police tape.

Please, if you are calling 911 to report an incident, check the vehicle around it to see if anyone is there. Valuable time and critical resources such as ambulances, rescue vehicles, police and helicopters are wasted responding to past or non incidences.

Bart Kirwan from Saskatoon stopped yesterday, he walked back to that vehicle and checked on that occupant, found him unconscious and called 911. What if Bart had not stopped, maybe that vehicle runs out of gas and the occupant freezes. What if he regained consciousness on his own, drives out of the ditch, and drives into a family travelling to visit loved ones and kills that family? What if the driver had been a diabetic in potentially deadly hypoglycaemia or was having a heart attack or a stroke?

We won't ever know, thankful, because Bart Kirwan cared enough about a fellow human being to stop, check and call for help.

Merry Christmas Bart, Merry Christmas!

Nelson Pompu - Swift Current EMS

Organizations: RCMP, Swift Current EMS

Geographic location: Swift Current

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