While a collision in Stayner in February may have changed the lives of the people involved, the quick action of local Simcoe County paramedics may have saved lives.
On Friday, those paramedics, along with many others, were celebrated at the County of Simcoe Paramedics Commencement and Honours Ceremony at the county’s administration centre.
The collision, on Feb. 2, occurred on Highway 26 and involved a bus and a minivan.
When paramedics arrived on scene, they found multiple adult and pediatric patients, including two adults and six children inside the minivan.
“There were some quite traumatic injuries to all of the children in the van and the two parents as well,” said Garrett Hookey, a Simcoe County paramedic who was acknowledged for career advancement in becoming an advanced care paramedic, as well as receiving a Chief’s Commendation for his role in helping with the collision.
“I was one of the responding paramedics in the ambulance. When I arrived, the first two patients had been taken away,” he recalled. “I was handed a patient by one of the other paramedics, who did a phenomenal job of triaging. My role was to assist with extrication and provide care to those patients who were still on scene.”
“I ended up transporting one of the children. I believe he was seven years old at the time. He had sustained quite traumatic injuries. We transported to Collingwood General Marine Hospital, where he continued to receive care,” said Hookey. “Luckily, it was a good outcome; all of the children survived.
"While they did sustain long rehab processes and extensive surgeries, they did all have a successful outcome.”
Five air ambulances were dispatched to the scene. Patients were transported to multiple Toronto hospitals, including SickKids.
The occupants of the bus, 47 in total, were taken to the Stayner Community Centre, where they were assessed by paramedics and released.
The collision scene was also unique as the crash included multiple pediatric patients, poor weather and significant co-ordination of efforts.
Hookey has been a paramedic with the county for six years.
“My initial wanting to be a paramedic came from a wanting to help others, and wanting to be able to provide a sense of calmness in emergencies, and the ability to have great influence over those in need who require assistance,” he said. “My passion for medicine and for helping people has been able to be combined into the job of paramedicine.”
While being a paramedic can be rewarding, Hookey says it can be difficult sometimes responding to people on what can be, for many, the worst day of their lives.
“Something I always try to keep in mind when I get to a scene is I’m here to provide care for somebody else. My well-being is OK right now. I’m not the one that’s having an emergency.
"Something I was taught very early on in my career is that when you respond to an emergency, it’s not yours and you really have to separate your own emotions from the emotions of everybody else that’s coming at you,” he said.
“I think the way that I do that is I just take a moment, take a deep breath and, one thing my parents taught me that stuck with me is to say, ‘Relax. Go and do your thing.’ That’s something I repeat to myself when I come to hot calls, because if I’m not under control and my emotions aren’t harnessed, then I can’t provide the best patient care,” said Hookey.
The ceremony on Friday also included formal presentations to the paramedic recruit commencement group, recognizing new team members, career advancements, and exemplary service medals and bars.
According to Andrew Robert, the director and chief of Simcoe County Paramedic Services, handing out these honours is important because it provides a bit of perspective.
“I think, especially when you’re talking about service on certain calls, those are difficult for people to do. They have training and they have ways to cope and ways to do their jobs. Many times, they’ll think of the things that didn’t go well, the negative things. It’s important to (remind them) there’s a lot of positives,” Robert said.
Mark Collins, Dan Hearn, Art Nolan, Scott Silverberg, Gerard Desrochers, Dave Anspach, Julian Becerra Forero, Brian Bessette, Imelda Chan, John Cranston, Jennifer Fievet, Matt Gilbert, Don Grant, Patrick Hervieux, Garrett Hookey, Robert Ligas, Stephen Luu, Char Muir, Ryan Nickels, Melissa Pauloni, Sarah Reid, Chantal Warriner and Don Wilson
Exemplary Service Medals and Bars
JC Gilbert (medal recipient), Sarah Reid (medal recipient), Tim Alexander (30-year bar), Neil Freeman (30-year bar), Gord Laidlaw (30-year bar), Daniel Madill (30-year bar) and Gerard Desrochers (30- and 40-year bars)