RICHMOND—Fifteen random rescue calls, including saving a heart attack victim, helping a person who had jumped from a ski lift and performing a lifesaving cricothyrotomy – all in a day’s work for BC paramedics. But this was not a regular day’s work: these spectacular interventions were made by the dedicated paramedics from CUPE Local 873 in the Czech Republic at this year’s Rallye Rejviz International Medical Rescue Competition. Their amazing teamwork and expertise earned them the silver medal, for the second year in a row.
Beating out 26 other countries, Team Canada (Kevin Lambert, Chris Naples, and Rico Ruffy) trained all year for this competitive event. “We were lucky to be able to go, thanks to CUPE BC, CUPE Local 873 and our other sponsors,” said team captain Kevin Lambert. “We were second only to the Australians, and it may be because their team had four people on it! Our team was super-happy with the silver.” In addition to the paramedics who competed, Team Canada had support in BC manager Clarke McGuire, logistics coordinator Lumir Popek and judge John Richmond.
After flying to Prague and renting a car to get to the tiny town of Kouty nad Desnou, the team stayed up late with a training simulation. Very early the next morning they were given an old ambulance and set off on the first of 14 emergency simulations, or tasks, for the day. “We had the same driver this year as last year, and he still spoke no English!” laughs Lambert. “He works as a medic in Prague, though, so we get by with hand signals, drawing happy or sad faces, and lots of smiles.”
“The most nerve-wracking part is the evaluating – there’s a judge for every patient,” says Lambert. The example he gave was their third task this year. The team had to haul their gear up a ski hill, where one man had fallen off the chairlift, a second man with “decreased consciousness” was still on the chair, a woman beside him was “freaking out” and a rescuer was climbing up a rope to get them down. Moments after Team Canada arrived at this chaotic scene, the woman jumped off the lift. The team had to decide instantly what the priorities were, and act on them. “The judges are looking for your thought processes,” explains Lambert. “They assume a certain level of technical expertise, but want to see the range of solutions to a common problem.”
Among the technical skills Team Canada had to demonstrate this year was a cricothyrotomy, or an opening in the neck for breathing. In this task, the team arrived in a park, where a man who had been sawing in a tree had fallen to the ground. He had a swollen neck, and there was a bee hive nearby. The team had to decide whether the swelling was from the bees or a saw injury, but the immediate need was to open a hole in the man’s throat to get him some air. At this point, the team moved to the side and performed the procedure in front of judges on a pig trachea.
Despite all the stress and 18-hour days, the paramedics enjoyed learning from the range of medical professionals at the competition. They hope to go again next year. Team manager Clarke McGuire emphasizes, “Without trade unionism we could never compete. In fact trade unionism plays a role with paramedics and our profession by insisting on better training, tools and our future to serve the needs of the public. It would be safe to say trade unions have helped shape our profession in Canada.” CUPE BC is proud to be a part of the winning team.
For more information and photos, visit the team’s website at www.teamcanadabc.com.